Newsted, Hellyeah, Device, Black Label Society and Megadeth all have well known members from very big former bands -- even Dave Mustaine with thirty years of kicking ass and taking names after Metallica. This was one of those shows so jam packed with metal talent, like an Ozzfest, that it doesn't quite register what you are doing until you clean the eye gunk from your eyes. The sun rose a 4:30 PM for Gigantour 2013 in Denver. With a small crowd in the wee hours of the concert morn, 1STBANK Center felt more like the best backyard party ever that your best friend hosted, pulling all the strings and booking an impressive impossible lineup.
This didn't stop any of the early bands from playing a gigantic show for a small audience. With devil horns held up high before the first note was even strummed, Jason Newsted's first words were, "I see 112 of my closest friends came tonight." Strapped into a bass like he should be, Newsted ripped into a high energy set starting with "Heroic Dose" -- the first track from the very soon to be released Heavy Metal Music.
Newly formed and all, Newsted played six of the first eight songs off this album, but this didn't stop his "friends" from pulling the band in with open arms. To close the set, Newsted ended with a crack of the "Whiplash," reminiscent of 2000's Summer Sanitarium Tour, in which he sang lead for many songs due to Hetfield recovering from a back injury.
Oh yeah, then Hellyeah took the stage with an attitude of "Fuck yeah!" Straight away, showing the band's southern roots with "Cowboy Way," frontman Chad Gray, with a thick reddish mohawk that cascaded into a rat tail, didn't waste any time kicking over the trashcan. While Vinnie Paul rumbled his motorcycle drums with a bottomless tank of gas, Gray literally beat songs like "Rage/Burn" and "Drink Drank Drunk" out of his head throughout the set. The last song, "HELLYEAH" roped in a stampede set of fuming furrowed brows and "Yee-haw"s.
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A drastic change of tone came from Dave Draiman and his killer vocals as Device plugged in and took charge. Disturbed incarnate, Device's musical mechanism isn't much of an upgrade from Draiman's older model of ravishing vocals, a soulless solo-less guitar and a contrasting partnership of feel-good reggae. The band then dropped an out-of-line cut on the conveyer belt, slanting it into the rotating blades of the gathering throng, "Heavy Prey," a collaborative effort by guitarist Lacey Sturm and Flyleaf from the Underworld: Awakening soundtrack. Before closing with "Vilify," Device powered off with the band's newest single "You Think You Know."
When Black Label Society rolled on stage, the transition from alt-metal to a savage beast of southern groove froze the crowd momentarily before they got in the groove of things. But that's all it took. Everyone still knew who took center stage even though you couldn't see Wylde, weeping willow hair over his face, bobbing for a good thirty second before parting lips to sing "Destruction Overdrive." Vinnie Paul could be seen side stage checking out BLS's ride on the open road like a kid at his first concert. Before retreating back stage, Vinnie raised his drink to the headstrong intro.
Keep reading for more on BLS and Megadeth
Several times throughout the set, Zakk Wylde shredded, propping his guitar straight up on his knee like he was loading a bottomless shotgun of incredulity while firing it internally into its chamber. Outgrowing every consecutive magnum opus, Wylde changed his guitar every other song, playing them until he ripped each one apart.
Then left all by his lonesome on stage, Wylde kept the crowd company by pleasantly blindsiding them with a ten minute solo, fit to feed five-thousand strong. Sweating profusely with all the stage lights on him, Wylde shone like the clouds parted and the heavens opened up, blessing him to carry on his work. This prompted concertgoers to pull out their phones at this supernatural power, completely oblivious of how they ruined the moment, witnessing this through the eye of the needle that is the lens of their camera phone. BLS closed the show with "Stillborn," and offered a heartfelt salute before exiting stage left.
From pitch black, the men of Megadeth stepped out of the shadows before the lights popped on with the double bass drum intro of "Trust," slowly ushering members on stage just in time to for Mustaine to sing the lines "Lost in a dream, nothing is what it seems." Three massive screens in the background flashed random images like a Ludovico treatment as the outfit switched up into Rust in Peace's "Hangar 18." To the relief of older fans, Megadeth drove the show with a greater majority of songs from the first half of the band's career.
Time-consuming dueling leads led the band into "In My Darkest Hour" and "Sweating Bullets" before loading straight into "Skin of My Teeth" with large black teeth chomping on all three screens. Draimen, who helped write and provide vocals for the next song off of the recently released Super Collider, joined Mustaine on stage at the end of "Dance in the Rain."
To keep the show interesting, Megadeth then pulled some Thin Lizzy out of its hat with a cool cover of "Cold Sweat." Out of the blue, Mustaine pulled the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra on stage, a group of youngsters from Paraguay with instruments made of trash, for a goosebump raising rendition of "Symphony of Destruction." It was clear Mustaine was putting a twist on the song with constructed instruments salvaged from materials that were shoveled into a landfill taken from destruction. As one of the unexpected highs of the show, the mass of Megadeth fans cheered the unique orchestra longer than it took to gather up their instruments and bounce off stage.
Back on track and strapping into the encore, Gigantour headed off into the sunset earlier than the average show with a fist pumping "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" and a Rust in Peace guitar shaped like a reversed arrow hanging from Mustaine's shoulders. After a series of humble thank-you's by the band, the sea of metal fans filed out wide eyed and energized by a more youthful assortment of Megadeth songs.
Personal Bias: At ten years old, Countdown to Extinction was the first metal album cover I ever saw and the first metal album I ever listened to. Growing up in a very conservative Christian family I really felt like I was sinning, and I've never turned back since.
Random Detail: A lot of fathers and sons at the show. Those dads deserve way more than just a 'World's Best Dad' mug.
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