Iron Maiden, Megadeth, and others
September 13, 2013
Better Than: Commemorating the day by playing the shitty NES game, Friday The 13th.
Some of our fondest live metal memories have occurred in basements, garages, and even sushi restaurants. But for our money, there is still no greater thrill than 35,000+ screaming fans singing along with Iron Maiden songs while pyro explodes, the giant Eddie monster stalks the band on stage, and Bruce Dickinson empties the fountain of youth with a manic performance.
As soon as gates opened on Friday at San Manuel Ampitheater, the crowd was ready to celebrate metal. Local thrash upstarts Warbringer and '80s Jersey thrashers Overkill warmed up the crowd and got those looking for early pit action going, despite being ignominiously placed on a side-concourse stage next to the entrance to the men's restrooms.
Unfamiliar to most of the crowd, Swedish epic power-metal outfit Sabaton made some new fans thanks to their over-the-top symphonic sounds and the boundless energy of singer Joakim Broden, who seemed determined to win over the audience no matter what.
Up next was longtime Bay Area thrashers Testament. There wasn't much in the way of showmanship, but this band has always been less about spectacle, and more about bringing solid thrash backed with strong musicianship. Chuck Billy's vocals were as ferocious as ever. Guitarist Alex Snolnick and drummer Gene Hoglan brought the incredible-yet-accessible musicianship that has made the group stand out among their peers throughout their 25-year career.
The crowd was primed throughout the afternoon, but the moment Anthrax took the stage was when the moshers really started to let loose. Opening with “Caught In A Mosh,” the New York metal icons blazed through a 45-minute, all killer-no filler set. They dedicated “In The End” to the memories of Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell, covering their Anthrax-branded scrims with paintings of the fallen metal icons.
Megadeth took the stage next.
Over the last few years, Megadeth band leader Dave Mustaine has received more attention for outrageous quotes attributed to him than for the music he produces. On this evening, Mustaine put the focus back on the music by leading Megadeth through one of the tightest and most ferocious sets this reviewer has seen from them.
They only had 60 minutes, so it was mostly a greatest-hits set, with only one track from 2013's Super Collider. Mustaine was here to kick everyone's ass, showing a fire that was missing the last time the band was in town. By the end of their set, the crowd reaction could have fooled you into thinking that it was Megadeth who drew the 35,000 fans.
But while the undercard was a well-curated collection of metal greats, the majority of the folks there were mainly drawn out by the promise of another spectacular Iron Maiden live set. From the moment UFO's “Doctor Doctor” faded from the loudspeaker, the crowd was rabid.
Their set list called back to the group's “Maiden England” 1988 tour. A larger chunk than usual focused on their album from that year, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Despite featuring longer and more progressive song arrangements, the crowd was still into it.
The spectacle Iron Maiden still brings to their live performances ensures that everyone will go home happy. Even in his mid-50s, Bruce Dickinson still bounds across and effortlessly covers every inch of the large arena stage. Leaping over monitor speakers with the poise of a 20-year old gymnast, the grandiose motions Dickinson makes with his hands and body play well to even the last row of the lawn.
Beyond the nods to Seventh Son, the group also layered in other crowd-pleasing classics such as “The Number of the Beast” and “Iron Maiden.” Dickinson triumphantly waved the British flag in a soldier's outfit to the delight of the screaming Americans during “The Trooper.” And no Iron Maiden show is complete without the appearance of their fifteen-foot tall monster mascot “Eddie,” who moved about the stage during a rousing rendition of “Run To The Hills.”
Closing the set with “Running Free,” Iron Maiden sent the crowd home satisfied. Without any hyperbole, Iron Maiden still presents the ultimate live heavy metal experience. When they come storming through with their bombastic performances and over-the-top, spare-no-expense stage show, even the most serious no-fun-having motherfucker finds himself waving his fist in the air and screaming along with every word.
The Crowd: An all-ages assortment of metal devotees, from longtime fans who first saw Iron Maiden on 1982's “Beast On The Road” tour to ten-year old girls seeing the band for the first time.
Approximate number of invisible oranges squeezed: 480,000
Random notebook dump: Iron Maiden are one of few bands whose fans are allowed to break the P.C.U. rule of wearing the band's t-shirt at their show. Everyone was “that guy” on Friday, and it was perfectly acceptable.
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