The Milwaukee stop of Gigantour took place on one of the hottest days so far this year. While driving to the venue, my car’s external temperature read 99 degrees. When I arrived at the venue I discovered two things. There was no air conditioning inside the building and at the request of the tour the first four bands would be playing on The Rave stage instead of all bands playing upstairs in the Eagles Ballroom. While The Rave is still a decent size room, there were a lot of people in attendance. With the lack of A/C, it was a real sauna in there.
Before the first band started, Jim Florentine, comedian and one of the hosts of That Metal Show, came out and explained he would be the emcee and gave everyone a few updates on the scheduling for the night. Starting on time, Los Angeles based metal band Death Division took the stage and played a short but impactful 20-minute set with songs from their current EP. Lead singer and guitarist Sean De La Tour was very expressive with his singing as well as his playing. Some may have recognized bassist Jerry Montano from his days with HELLYEAH. He appeared to be having the most fun on stage as he was often smiling in between his head banging. Most never even saw the face of guitar player Rick Di Marco as his hair was constantly hanging in face. But make no mistake, you didnt need to see his face to appreciate his guitar playing. Drummer Tim Yeung kept a steady heavy beat throughout their entire set. The audience gave their seal of approval as a mosh pit broke out during their last song.
After a short change over, next up was Newsted. Most may recognize the name belonging to former Metallica bassist, Jason Newsted. His new band includes Mike Mushok and Jessie Farnsworth on guitar and Jesus Mendez Jr. on drums. With Jason standing center stage singing and playing bass, his presence alone was quite prominent. Add to that his snarling facial expressions and dominant playing and he commanded the attention of everyone in attendance. At one point in the night Jason spoke to the crowd stating, “The metal brings us together and the music keeps us together.” It surely does indeed. I must say, everyone appeared to be fully engaged in the band’s performance. Their 30-minute set included songs from the upcoming album Heavy Metal Music (available Aug 6) including Heroic Dose, Soldierhead and a couple others. However, they ended the night with a very famous cover. Prior to playing the last song, Jason called out that he wanted to see some action but also reminded everyone that if someone went down, to pick them back up. The place exploded when they launched into Whiplash and the mosh pit opened up almost immediately. With another sweaty set done, we were on to the next one!
Jim Florentine came out once again, made some funny remarks and reminded everyone to head upstairs after Device was finished. When HELLYEAH walked on stage, Vinnie Paul stood behind his kit and raised his arms to greet the crowd. Once HELLYEAH started, the place was on fire. Not literally of course, but with the heat in there it might as well have been. Just standing still the sweat was pouring down. However, that didn’t seem to stop a lot of people from enjoying the night. The crowd still sang along, pumped their fists and moshed. HELLYEAH opened with Cowboy Way and Chad Gray was firing on all cylinders. Sporting his trademark mohawk, he rested one foot on a riser, leaned into a crouched pose and did what he does best. His face always showed a powerful expression of what he was singing about plus it didn’t take long before he was jumping off the risers. The man always has a ton of energy and that night was no exception. Heat be damned, the band were still going to give 110%. Playing songs from all three of their releases, they never let up. Guitarist Greg Tribbett mostly kept to his side of the stage, playing with a calm but assertive stance for most of the night. Between second guitarist Tom Maxwell’s smooth and suave appearance as he ripped through guitar notes and Bob Zilla’s intense frame of mind, they definitely owned stage right. Vinnie Paul’s massive kit provided an obstructed view of himself for those that were closer to the stage, however, the sound that could be heard was undeniable. The man was a monster. They dedicated Band of Brothers to all the troops before ending with You Wouldn’t Know and title track Hellyeah.
As the night went on, it felt like it was getting hotter and hotter in the building. The bands were feeling it just as bad as the fans were, however, it was probably worse for them since they were performing under the hot lights. From time to time, there were a few electrical problems, whether with equipment or a section of lights going out temporarily on The Rave stage. I can only imagine it was a direct result from the heat and humidity. After HELLYEAH’s performance, a good portion of the floor cleared out. I’m assuming people headed upstairs to get a good spot for the last two bands of the night. However, by the time Device took the stage, the floor was full again. Once I saw the crowd that had already gathered upstairs, I’m sure the part of the crowd that did leave made room for everyone else that was crammed at the back and sides in The Rave. David made a joke about having a fan on stage that didn’t work then said, something like screw it, let’s do this old school. Eventually someone got the fan plugged in but I don’t know how much good it really did.
Their 35-minute set consisted mostly of songs from their new self-titled album and two covers. David’s facial expressions matched his vocals which showed pure emotion. Often times he would clutch his fists to give more dramatic emphasis. Guitarist, Virus, who also helped with backing vocals showed a true Rock ‘n Roll performance. Whether he was jumping up and down or ripping though guitar licks, as the band’s only guitar player, he filled the role well. Drummer Will Hunt was his usual energetic self and song after song all you saw were hair and arms constantly flying. During their cover of Lita Ford’s Close My Eyes Forever, Will constantly flipped his stick in the air and never dropped it once. At one point during the night David talked about his disgust of the recent controversial Rolling Stone cover and Will Hunt appeared to be of the same opinion as he first showed a thumbs down pose before flipping the bird. They ended their night with Vilify, which had the biggest crowd response and also included Will spewing liquid in the form of a fountain a couple times during a build up of the song. Their set ended with a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Wish.
After Device, everyone made their way upstairs to the Eagles Ballroom, which was a much bigger room. But as the saying goes, heat rises. Even though the windows were open, it didn’t help much and the sauna like temps continued. Once Black Label Society took the stage, Zakk started soloing without a spot light. Not sure if this was planned or a miscommunication, but even though you couldn’t really see him, you could definitely hear him loud and clear. Once the lights came up, the band launched into Godspeed Hellbound. While the stage set up wasn’t elaborate, you couldn’t miss the walls of Marshall stacks not to mention the killer drum kit set up. The one thing that was different though was that none of the lights were on at the back of the stage. I’m guessing this was to cut down on the heat from the stage lights, but as a result, drummer Chad Szeliga was pretty much in the dark all night.
Zakk’s mic stand had his trademark cross and rosaries along with dangling skulls. There was a riser next to him that he often would lean on with one foot while playing then other times he stood on it. Guitarist Nick Catanese mostly played to the far right of the stage but from time to time would wander over to the other side to interact with and play for the fans. Most of the night he had a very serious look on his face, but every once in a while he would flash a smile to someone in the crowd. He was also very much into his playing often times leaning back with his eyes closed, becoming engulfed in the moment. Many times during the night, bassist John DeServio played with a big smile on his face. Also pulling double duty with backing vocals, he too mostly stayed on his side of the stage. However, from time to time he would walk over to Nick’s side to interact with fans. For those that have not seen BLS before, Zakk always appeared to be in the zone. Whether he closed his eyes while singing or his hair was hanging down over his face as he laid into a solo, one thing was certain, he was totally into his performance.
About half way through their set, everyone left the stage but Zakk. The time had come for what became an epic guitar solo. I overheard a guy next to me who was tracking the time as he played. Once it got past the six minute mark he was getting giddy with excitement. After the seven minute mark he seemed to be in awe. Finally, once Zakk was finished, the guy called it at 7 minutes and 40 seconds. How exact the time was I’m not really sure, but regardless, it was quite an impressive solo. Following that was Parade of the Dead which included random black BLS beach balls that came flying from side stage out into the crowd. Another cool moment that night was during the end of Suicide Messiah. As Zakk sang the last chorus of the song, after he started the very last line, “It’s just your…” he paused and then let the crowd finish it off. In complete unison, everyone sang, “…suicide messiah.” Talk about powerful. It always amazes me how dramatic it is when you hear a crowd singing along like that. Impressive. They ended the night with Stillborn and once the song was over, Zakk held up his Flying V to the crowd. He then took off his vest and held that up and showed the BLS logo to the crowd. Each time prompted cheers from the crowd. One by one, all the guys hugged each other on stage and at one point Chad jumped on Nick as if he wanted a piggyback ride. They all took a group bow and started to leave the stage. Zakk saluted the crowd and everyone cheered. He pounded his chest like King Kong and the show was over.
We were now down to the final band of the night. The heat was still pretty unbearable but the crowd soldiered on. The stage set up for Megadeth included a huge video screen behind the drum kit that was on a pretty tall riser, and two fairly huge screens on either side of the riser. Add to that all the normal lighting you’d expect at a concert and there was no shortage of light on stage. The night started off with a video of mechanical parts creating the name Megadeth. As this was happening, white fog rolled in low across the stage. Eventually the band came out and it made for a pretty spectacular entrance. Their hour long set started with Trust, Wake Up Dead, In My Darkest Hour and Hanger 18. I had to laugh to myself when they started Sweating Bullets. There wasn’t a more fitting song to represent the night than this one. Drummer Shawn Drover sat tall on his riser but more than once bassist David Ellefson and guitarist Chris Broderick would meet and face each other while playing. Both Dave and Chris interacted often with the crowd, whether by playing at the edge of the stage or moving around in general to get the crowd hyped up.
Dave Mustaine on the other hand was pretty much tied to his mic. From time to time he would back away from it to solo and a couple times even moved to the back of the stage. With his hair constantly hanging in his face, every once in a while you would see his snarl as the emotion in his words appeared across his face. Dave’s not one for flash, but he is definitely dedicated. While he is an old pro at this, it’s more than apparent throughout his playing this is something he’s still passionate about. All night there were tons of visual imagery playing on the video screens. Everything from random images to political to album artwork. Megadeth definitely gave you something to think about. Off and on during the show, there were three movie clips that referenced the band Megadeth. For me, the most popular was a scene from Wayne’s World when Garth asks, “Do you have any Megadeth?” Each time they played a different movie clip it provided a bit of humor. During A Tout Le Monde there was a moment when Dave allowed the crowd to sing on their own. He appeared to be impressed as evident by the smile on his face. While I was hoping to hear the title track from their new album Super Collider, they opted to play Kingmaker and Dance in the Rain instead.
They ended the night with their cover of Thin Lizzy’s Cold Sweat, followed by another movie clip with a Peace Sells reference that lead into the song itself. There was a lot of constant political imagery during this song. The band left the stage for a minute or two before they came back out for the encore. Dave spoke to the crowd stating there were certain metal cities they counted on, like Chicago and Detroit, but that night, Milwaukee kicked their ass. Of course, this brought on loud cheers and clapping. They ended the night with Holy Wars…The Punishment Due. Dave thanked everyone for coming and ended with his trademark line, “You’ve been great. We’ve been Megadeth.”
As the band left the stage, there was more video along the lines of ending movie credits. One by one, there was a photo showing each band member along with their name and then after that, there were photos showing all the crew members including their name and title. Pretty cool way to end the show. All in all, even though the indoor conditions were less than favorable that night, all the bands’ performances were nothing short of awesome. The tour continues through August so if you haven’t already done so, be sure and check it out!