When I first saw the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium concert advertised – a 30th anniversary celebration of the pioneer thrash metal bands – I was thinking this could be a lot of fun. My friend Joe mentioned wanting to go and he got several floor tickets. He was disappointed that they weren’t for the group close to the stage but they were general admission and we got to lean against the fence in front of the soundboard, which was sitting on third base, and that was pretty cool. The stage was set up in front of the big screen in centerfield.
After reading the Facebook posts that night I realized that I knew a lot of people who were at the show but somehow never ran into them. The show wasn’t sold out and tickets in our section were selling for a hundred dollars less the day of the show but what are you going to do? There were still plenty of people in the stadium and (I know it’s blurry) but this is the view if you’re on third base in Yankee Stadium.
Everyone knows my pet peeve about wearing the t-shirt of the artist you’re seeing and heavy metal fans are the worst perpetrators in this regard. I guess it started when the fans decided to dress like the musicians (it isn’t unusual to see the band wearing their own t-shirts) and it was a small much-maligned club. But now it’s a multi-million dollar industry (even the NY Times reviewed the show) filled with long hair, shaved heads, shorts, t-shirts, leather, tattoos, piercings, and sneakers. For examples of this here are photos from the boat ride to Yankee Stadium.
The train was packed with people on their way to the show and outside Yankee Stadium it was a madhouse. When I texted that to Joe his response was “As it should be.” Outside promptly at 4:00 pm we could hear Anthrax begin. I got in and then had to stand on another line where they checked my ticket again, punched it, and gave me a wristband. But I was finally on the floor and standing in Yankee Stadium. I cannot tell you how cool that is. I caught the last half of Anthrax’s set and they were great. Unfortunately they had to play to a sparse crowd since a lot of people were coming in from work.
But the band was in a great mood – they’re from NYC and the Bronx Borough President had declared it Anthrax Day and they all had on Anthrax t-shirts with the number 30 on the back. There were big screens on either side of the stage and I have to say that lead singer Joey Belladonna’s face is not a face you want to see magnified that large. Rhythm guitarist Scott Ian looks the same as always and was talkative and also loving the crowd. He said they originally were supposed to play in Citifield but didn’t want to play in a loser’s stadium. That elicited a combination of cheers and boos. Frank Bello was on bass, Charlie Benante on drums, and Rob Caggiano on lead guitar.
One of the songs was dedicated to Ronnie James Dio but you’re not going to get setlists or any song titles from me – I like the music but I’m not familiar enough with these bands to know their songs. Any song I mention is because someone told me that night or the band announced it. The screens on the side of the stadium were texting the lyrics and stage banter. (There was a funny moment when James Hetfield (lead singer/guitarist, Metallica) noticed the texting and said they’d gotten it wrong – it said “NYC kissed our ass” instead of “NYC kicked our ass.” And then he wondered if they would text that he noticed the texting. And all of that appeared in the titles. Except ass was aas. And fucking was written as f**king.)
“Indians” on the subtitle screen:
There were long set-ups between acts and I wasn’t really that interested in Megadeth (and also surprised that they were there. Later when Hetfield was thanking all the bands, he said we enjoy being with our friends and he named each band and when he said Megadeth, he added, “That’s right. I said friends. It feels weird to say today but it’s true.” For those of you who don’t know lead vocalist/guitarist/founding member Dave Mustaine was fired from the original Metallica line-up for drinking and drug abuse.) Anyway, I went in search of food. Joe and his friends were on their way and my phone’s battery died so I was trying to figure out how I was going to find them. I watched them a bit while I was eating.
I thought Mustaine looked pretty good. The band is okay but they’ve never stood out for me the way the other three do. The other members are Dave Ellefson on bass, Chris Broderick on guitar, and Shawn Drover on drums. I made it back down to the floor and was enjoying the beautiful warm end of summer day when I saw Joe. He was headed to the Ketel One lounge for a beer. Walk downstairs in the stadium and there is an air-conditioned bar filled with bottles of Ketel One. I love Yankee Stadium.
So now all of us were leaning against the fence and waiting for Slayer. For me, Slayer is thrash metal at its best. Their sound is distinct and even if every song of theirs sounds pretty much the same, it is still their sound. Slayer is Tom Araya on lead vocals/bass, Kerry King on guitar, Dave Lombardo on drums, and Gary Holt of Exodus filling in for an ailing Jeff Hanneman on guitar. One of the guitarists was wearing a Slayer t-shirt. I always wonder why heavy metal musicians/fans don’t wear the t-shirts of the influencing bands – why not a Motörhead t-shirt instead? On either side of Lombardo were five columns of Marshall amps three rows high. Araya never moved from the mic and was singing so fast that they couldn’t subtitle the lyrics. The sun came down while they were playing and it made for a perfect backdrop for them. No sunlight and a few stage lights – just the band pumping out song after song. Songs I know they played because Joe was singing along were “Reign in Blood,” Black Magic,” and “Angel of Death.”
During this set I had my only obnoxious encounter with a drunk fan. I was sitting on the floor for part of the set and this guy almost fell into me. I had to push him off me. He decided to lean against the fence next to me. After I stood up he started stroking my arm. I wanted to just throw up my forearm and hit him in the face with my fist but decided against it. I did have to physically push him off me at one point because he was leaning in to kiss me. Eventually his other drunk friends came to collect him. The guy standing on the other side of the drunk guy told me I had great restraint because he would have clocked him.
There’s a reason Metallica is the headliner. First you’ve got charismatic Hetfield up front. Then Kirk Hammett on lead guitar is pretty good looking and he has great guitars – faceplates that look like Ouija boards or posters for Dracula or The Mummy. There are the thrash songs but they also have ballads and songs that straddle metal and hard rock. The variety makes them easy to listen to for over two hours. And they have all the rock and roll effects – AC/DC playing before their entrance, a video of Eli Wallach’s cemetery scene from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Ennio Morricone’s score playing along, flashpots, large flames, fireworks in the sky, a ramp so they can stand up higher then the rest of the band and solo, a big screen behind them, and lasers –
Robert Trujillo on bass was having a good night and one of his solos was dedicated to Cliff Burton. Lars Ulrich on drums was, as one of my friends texted me, having a rough night. Something seemed off and my friend thought Ulrich was playing to a track – he was off by one bar and there were bass drum issues. But, of course, nothing stops Ulrich from constantly mugging and showing off.
There were a lot of shots of the crowd singing along, rock and roll fingers and tongues all a-thrust. During “Nothing Else Matters” Hetfield showed off his guitar pick – Yankee Stadium and the date on one side and Big 4 on the back. The set ended with “Enter Sandman.” For the encore most of the other musicians came out and played Motörhead’s “Overkill.” The starts and stops of the song gave each drummer an opportunity to get behind the kit and show off. They ended the night with “Seek and Destroy” and lot of big beach balls with Big 4/Yankee Stadium written on them were thrown into the crowd. What a great beginning of the end of the summer concert season.
Photos of the show here. (There’s a shot of a guy crowd surfing in his wheelchair.)
By Carene Lydia Lopez