It was the turn of Birmingham Arena to play host to Slayer on their farewell world tour, a journey that began in May 2018 and is set to continue well into 2019.
Accompanied by Obituary, Anthrax and Lamb of God for the European leg, the stage was set for an immense evening of ear-haemorrhage inducing metal.
Obituary began the ceremony with their signature sound, demanding attention and getting it in full. Although not as animated on stage as perhaps the next bands to come, they still commanded a presence that demonstrated why their music had earned a place on this tour. The crowd was hooked and vocalist John Tardy reeled them in with his well-delivered vocals. If Obituary’s job was to get the fans warmed up and their blood pumping, it was a case of objective achieved.
A short break between acts saw the stage being taken over by New York rockers Anthrax, and their performance was nothing short of excellent. From the start, Joey Belladonna was engaging with the audience like the pro he is while Scott Ian headbanged away in rhythm with his picking. Against a backdrop of artwork relating to their latest For All Kings album, Anthrax belted out their classics with Belladonna’s voice sounding like it was still 1985. ‘Got The Time’ caused chaos in the front rows as the crowd went mosh-crazy and the iconic cry of ‘I Am The Law’ showed the fans that the band was definitely not fucking around. ‘Antisocial’ was the icing on the cake that got the entire arena screaming in unison as Joey played the audience sections off against each other, breathing life into a tired format through sheer energy. If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the east-coasters, but on this performance, they could have been headlining.
Another interval (and a well-earned toilet break) later saw Lamb of God take the stage. What can be said about Randy Blythe’s vocals that hasn’t been said before? The lead singer rasped his way through the set and engaged with fans between songs, even pausing to give credit to Slayer for bringing everyone together for this performance. Lamb of God’s sound throughout their set was excellent, with each band member’s contribution being easy to pick out and appreciate, and by the time they dove into their seminal track, ‘Laid to Rest’, the arena was rocking to the sound of pure American metal.
I think it’s only fair before I mention Slayer’s performance to give credit to the slick operation of the various road crews. To have to manage the changes between a support and main act is hard enough, but to have to do it several times in one night is extremely difficult. With stage alterations and backdrop changes happening quickly and without a hitch, it enabled the bands to do what they do best, and that leads me on to Slayer.
The Californian kings of thrash metal took to the stage amidst a light show of satanic imagery which was followed up with a pyrotechnic display that was all sorts of eye candy. Opening with ‘Repentless’, Tom Araya belted out its lyrics while the drums of Paul Bostaph sent shockwaves through the arena. Kerry King and Gary Holt combined to add their contribution and the scene was set for the kind of performance that you knew was going to be special. Araya took the odd opportunity to engage with the crowd between tracks, but essentially this performance was almost non-stop and a credit to the skill of a band that may not ever tour again. The musical professionalism was obvious as the changes in their songs were made seamless, delivering the performance we had come to expect from one of the most iconic metal bands in the world. Predictably, ‘South of Heaven’ got the largest roar and when the set finished, the band hung around on stage to show their appreciation the fans that had supported them over the years.
All-in-all we were treated to an evening of legendary metal, delivered with plenty of attitude and skill. Based on this night’s performance, Slayer are going to be truly missed.