Slayer – Primus – Ministry – Phil Anselmo and The Illegals: Live at Madison Square Garden

The lights came up… and it was all over.

This has been the scenario for thousands of shows I have seen. Maybe 6,000 plus shows that I have attended or performed in since I was a small child. The final bow, thunderous applause, and the blinding lights of the house coming on, our shared experience ending as we gather ourselves to go to the bar, or home. Except this was different. This was the last time I would ever see Slayer. It was definitely hitting me, long before the final notes of ‘Angel of Death’ rang out and the final jets of pyro screamed across the top of the band in a way that would excite Beavis and Butthead to no end.

I mean it’s no shock that I felt this way. Slayer wasn’t my favorite band or even favorite Thrash band. But certainly, the band that has left a huge mark on me. I have seen them the most as a fan and covered them a fuckton as a journalist. A combined 37 times including this final one. Chances are Anthrax or Life of Agony catch up in the next few years’ time. I wasn’t even supposed to be at this show. Ghost Cult has actually covered Slayer five times on this farewell tour, on two continents and three countries. I knew it was hopeless to try and get in with.all the friends of the band and press much bigger than our site vying for tickets. Still, at the last second, I was gifted a free ticket, so I pinched myself and was early to the show for once. Thanks to Alex of Heavy New York for the hookup!

I got to my seat a whopping twenty minutes early and it was neat to see fans already flooding the floor. The anticipation to see Philip H. Anselmo and The Illegals do an all-Pantera set of covers was high, and I know it was as big a draw as Slayer to some fans. My friend Amanda was ecstatic from the notion of seeing these songs performed live since she never saw Pantera. With little fanfare, the band came on stage with the lights on, but was all business within seconds. The band tore through a short set of greatest hits and surprising deep cuts too. The band wasn’t really a carbon copy of Pantera, and how could they be? The did a fair bit of justice to the original, owing to the fact that no one can really replicate Dimebag Darrell’s and Vinnie Paul’s distinctive styles. Still, Philip was in great form and hearing the entire arena screaming the chorus of ‘This Love’ was totally worth it.

Ministry was next and was razor-sharp, as they have been the last few years. Uncle Al Jorgensen doesn’t often go out for the greatest hits set, but this time they did just that. Normally, the band plays more recent material before the big finish, but here we got hit after hit after hit. Al was on fire, kept it tight with little banter and just ruled on guitar and vocals. Myfavortie song of their set was the1000 Homo DJs Black Sabbath cover of ‘Supernaught’. It was also great to see one of my all-time favorite bassists, Paul D’Amour (ex-Tool) rocking out too. Overall, it was a  fantastic Ministry set and I am stoked for new music from the band in 2020. 

 

 

Primus was the odd duck on the tour, not for their left-field music, but just the weird with the seeming non-overlapping of fans. I love Primus (extra points go to the readers that know the Primus fans’ rallying cry), but it seemed like Slayer fans took a beer/piss break during the band. Still, the Bay Area weirdos brought their own crowd to the dance and pounded through a set of well-known classics and some newish stuff few knew well.

 

 

Finally, Slayer came on and the “most famous arena in the world’ crackled with energy you felt from the floor to the rafters. Having seen the band all these times didn’t make it any less thrilling before they started. Yes, they have played mostly the same setlist for two years of five give or take. It’s what the fans want, and it’s what the shall receive! The intro music came on, the lighted crosses, pentagrams, and skulls danced across the curtain and then if fell on New York City for the last time ever.

Historically, there have been few bands tighter and more professional than Slayer. The set list is so well known and the songs so ingrained in listeners’ minds, that when mistakes are made (there were a  few gaffes) the fans take note, but the band hardly cares. They are up there having fun. Taking a victory lap. The show is still a spectacle of riffs, aggression, fire, and drama. 20,000 people screaming lyrics that have become catchphrases for all metalheads that give you chills. Moshing on cue, screaming along with Tom Araya every song, people singing riffs and even those atonal, frenzied solos got paid some tribute from the crowd didn’t matter if this was your first or fifteenth Slayer show, we were all team Slayer on this night.

Is there a post-concert syndrome, like the coming down from a high, but your bangover has started way early, and you just now noticed you reek of the shitty $15 beer someone spilled on your hoodie? I was already feeling this during the show, somewhere around the middle of Primus. I may be feeling my age and all these years of concerts afterall. Still, it was an amazing show and I am glad I got to scream “ANGEL OF DEEEAATH…FLYING FREE’ one last time with all the crazies.

KEITH CHACHKES