Concert Review – Slayer (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 05/29/2018)

And Slayer said goodbye to Toronto in the most pulverizing (and best) way you can imagine.

OPENING ACTS: Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God

I don’t know what to say about the absolute devastation that happened at the always perfect (and I dare you to name one place in this planet that’s better than that for a live concert) Budweiser Stage yesterday in Toronto. When it was announced that there was going to be a Slayer Farewell Tour, I guess they forgot to say it was going to be a farewell to their diehard fans, brave people who lost their lives while crushing their heads and spines into the nonstop, infernal mosh pits that took over the entire venue (and I believe I saw some smaller ones even in the seated areas) during the more than SIX HOURS of brutal Thrash and Death Metal blasted by some of the best bands in the history of heavy music. As a matter of fact, whoever had the initial idea of putting together on the same day/night the great Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and Slayer deserves a huge prize and our utmost respect forever. It was totally and amazingly insane from start to finish, on a beyond beautiful and sunny day in the city. My neck hurts and I’m as tired as hell, so I’ll try to be brief in writing a little about what was supposed to be the last fulminating performance by the almighty Slayer in Toronto (and I really, really hope it was not the last time we saw those guys here).

It was past 4pm when the gates finally opened and the fans could enter the venue for some beer, for getting a little shade away from the scorching sun, and for a few curious ones to enjoy the official pre-show party with Canadian Black Metal horde Panzerfaust at the River Bar at 4:30pm. As I was dying for a beer and pumped up already for TESTAMENT at 5pm, I unfortunately couldn’t attend that mini-gig, but I guess the band won’t be mad at us for doing that, right? Anyway, at 5 o’clock high there they were Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick, Steve Di Giorgio and the demonic stone crusher Gene Hoglan for a short and demolishing lecture in Thrash Metal, still promoting their latest installment, the flawless Brotherhood Of The Snake, from 2016. It was insanity in the form of seven faster-than-a-bullet songs (who doesn’t love the thrashing classic Into the Pit?), with the bestial drums by Gene sounding like he was hired by TTC to help with the excavations for a new subway station, making our chests and even hats tremble with his beats. Yes, as awesome as that.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
Practice What You Preach
The Pale King
Into the Pit
The New Order
Disciples of the Watch

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

After a short bathroom break, it was time for Poland’s most iconic metal band of all time to darken the stage with their blasphemous and sulfuric music. Polish Blackened Death Metal institution BEHEMOTH lived up to the expectations even playing a shorter setlist than usual (and at daylight, something they might not be used to), mixing classics with kick-ass songs from their latest album, their 2014 opus The Satanist, plus a brand new song named Wolves ov Siberia. Mr. Adam “Nergal” Darski was on fire throughout the entire performance, proving why he’s one of the most respected metal artists of the past decade, leaving the fans eager for more of their obscure music in a not-so-distant future. One funny thing is that Behemoth were the only band to not throw to the fans any guitar picks or drumsticks, but instead they were spitting blood on the people at the front row. If that doesn’t tell you how dark their music is, I don’t know what would.

Setlist
Ov Fire and the Void
Demigod
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Wolves ov Siberia
Chant for Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

Another bathroom break, another beer, and at 6:55pm sharp (don’t you feel amazed with how punctual all events are in Toronto?) it was time for the old school, slamming, riff-oriented Thrash Metal by the one and only ANTHRAX, who (guess what?) delivered a sequence of seven ass-kicking, frantic songs, including Evil Twin, from their 2016 album For All Kings, and beautiful classics such as I Am the Law, Madhouse and Indians. Scott Ian and Frank Bello were in their usual “I’m playing on stage but I’m also moshing up here together with you guys in the pit” mode, while Joey Belladonna was beyond happy with the warm reaction of the fans to each one of their songs. The low point of the show was that unfortunately Charlie Benante couldn’t play with the band as a result of an ongoing battle with carpal tunnel in his wrists, but the good thing is that he was replaced by the monstrous Gene Hoglan. Do I need to say more? In addition, Mr. Belladonna said that the concert yesterday was Anthrax’s biggest crowd ever in Toronto, and I’m sure everyone who was there banging their heads to their music was more than happy to have been part of such important day to the band.

Setlist
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
I Am the Law
Madhouse
Evil Twin
Antisocial (Trust cover)
Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Gene Hoglan – drums*

*Replaced Charlie Benante due to illness.

After all the havoc generated by Testament, Behemoth and Anthrax, there was still more to come with Groove Metal titans LAMB OF GOD, still promoting their 2015 album VII: Sturm und Drang, and let me tell you the show was so heavy and insane I think some people went missing after the demented circle pits ignited by Mr. Randy Blythe and his henchmen. Playing a solid mix of songs from all of their albums, with all of them of course being as brutal as hell, Lamb Of God put a huge smile on the faces of their diehard fans, with Randy also praising all the bands of the “mini-festival”, requesting everyone to pay a humble tribute to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair with a few WOOOOO’s, and jumping up and down like a maniac on stage nonstop. Well, everything a Redneck loves in life, right? And please correct me if I’m wrong, but was Randy wearing some sort of ankle monitor still due to the manslaughter case he was involved and arrested for a few years ago? If that’s the case, well, that’s what I call a badass frontman, ladies and gentlemen.

Setlist
Omerta
Ruin
Walk With Me in Hell
Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
512
Engage the Fear Machine
Blacken the Cursed Sun
Laid to Rest
Redneck

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums

SLAYER

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” It’s with these classic words that I want to introduce you to the end of all days in the form of the Satanic Thrash Metal blasted by the heaviest, the most awesome and the most destructive band in the world, the all-powerful SLAYER. Actually, I should say FUCKIN’ SLAYER, or even SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR, as this is the right way to refer to the unrelenting Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and the second stone crusher of the night, the barbaric Paul Bostaph (another guy that probably got some money from TTC to speed up the subway excavations yesterday). Playing at least one song from each one of their crushing albums, from their 1983 masterpiece Show No Mercy to their 2015 opus Repentless (with the exception of their 1998 controversial album Diabolus in Musica), Slayer put on a flammable performance (and I’m not using the word flammable in vain, as there was A LOT of fire during the whole concert), turning the entire floor section into one supreme, hot-as-hell, motherfuckin’ savage circle pit.

And that mix of classic Slayer with their more contemporary albums workd extremely well, creating a hellish balance of sounds for the total delectation of all admirers of their undisputed Thrash Metal. It was fantastic watching them performing faster, newer tunes like Repentless, Disciple, Hate Worldwide and Jihad, while at the same time delivering their classic infernal melodies in Mandatory Suicide, Postmortem and Black Magic. For instance, in my humble opinion the sequence comprised of Payback (one of the most pulverizing songs of the night), Seasons in the Abyss, Dittohead and Dead Skin Mask simply proves how timeless their music is, and how important they’ll always be to the world of heavy music. Then from Hell Awaits until the grand finale with the all-time classic Angel of Death it was an absolute chaos, with the circle pit getting bigger and bigger, people screaming at the top of their lungs and crowd surfing nonstop like if there was no tomorrow, and sweat and beer flowing everywhere. And I’m not going to say how cataclysmic the metal hymn Raining Blood was. If you were not there, you don’t deserve to know.

One thing I’ll never understand is how Mr. Paul Bostaph managed to play drums at that insane speed and intensity with all those blistering hot fires burning almost all the time all around his drum set. I think that proves he’s not human, as none of the guys from Slayer are. As a matter of fact, Slayer are a four-headed, rabid beast that would make even the “hound of Hades” Cerberus put his tail between his legs and run away, and if this was in fact their farewell tour, well, they’ll be beyond missed by all of us, diehard Slayer fans who consider Dead Skin Mask one of the best “ballads” ever composed by any band. Let’s wait and see if we’ll be treated to at least one more Slayer apocalypse in Toronto in the coming years as a second, third or whatever leg of their farewell tour, I don’t care, as long as they return. Now it’s time to take some rest from all madness from yesterday, do the body count (and maybe there are even some bodies floating in Lake Ontario near the venue), take a deep breath and keep doing what we all know how to at home, at school, at work or anywhere else where some good and reverberating screaming in required. And you know what word you need to burst your lungs screaming, right?

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Blood Red
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Jihad
When the Stillness Comes
Postmortem
Black Magic
Payback
Seasons in the Abyss
Dittohead
Dead Skin Mask
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Chemical Warfare
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

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Concert Review – Megadeth & Scorpions (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 09/22/2017)

The city of Toronto was beautifully taken by storm by two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock on the last day of the summer, and the result was absolutely fantastic.

OPENING ACT: Megadeth

When this Crazy World Tour 2017 was announced a few months ago, I instantly thought about how amazing it would be to witness on the same night two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock playing some of their biggest classics (as well as a few newer songs) at what’s in my humble opinion one of the best and most pleasant venues in the world to watch any type of concert (and I’ve been to several different ones in distinct parts of the world), the Torontonian amphitheater now known as Budweiser Stage. Well, it was even better than anyone could have expected, with the combination of two bands full of energy and excited to please the crowd, thousands of fans eager for some rockin’ music, and a weather that, for the very last day of summer, was beyond perfect, making the whole night truly memorable.

As the opening act, or maybe I should call them co-headliners as they’re not your average band, we had the absolute pleasure of enjoying American Thrash/Speed Metal heroes MEGADETH. Spearheaded by the unstoppable Mr. Dave Mustaine, Megadeth were still promoting their latest installment, the excellent Dystopia, released last year, but only one song from the album (its title-track) was played during the show. The setlist was pretty much a selection of their biggest hits with a huge focus on their 1990 masterpiece Rust In Piece, kicking off the concert with the blazing Hangar 18, and also featuring from that classic album the hits Take No Prisoners, Tornado of Souls (my favorite of the show) and, closing their performance, a song that needs no introduction, Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.

And obviously “Megadave” and his henchmen David Ellefson, Kiko Loureiro (who proved to be the guitarist Mustaine needed by his side) and Dirk Verbeuren played every song to perfection, with the background screen complementing the music in a fun and exciting manner. For instance, the Nascar images used as a background for Mechanix and the official video for Dystopia (another fantastic moment of the show) played while the band executed the song were spot-on to keep the fans mesmerized and in total sync with the band. In addition, everyone at the venue singing the power ballad A Tout Le Monde guided by Mustaine was just beautiful, and the smile on his face after that moment was awesome. Now, as usual, let’s patiently wait until we can see such distinct band performing live again in our beautiful Toronto.

Setlist
Prince of Darkness
Hangar 18
Mechanix
Take No Prisoners
Sweating Bullets
A Tout Le Monde
Tornado of Souls
Dystopia
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells

Encore:
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

Band members
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, lead guitars, rhythm guitars
Kiko Loureiro – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, backing vocals
David Ellefson – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dirk Verbeuren – drums

SCORPIONS

If the venue wasn’t fully packed during Megadeth’s kick-ass performance, things changed considerably a few minutes before German Hard Rock institution SCORPIONS hit the stage with their flawless setlist, but before the concert started I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with other fans close to where I was (which was right in front of the stage), in special one father with his 13-year old son. The name of the boy is T Bone Bentley, he’s a very talented drummer who loves metal and rock, and you can check him smashing his drums on his official YouTube channel (together with his dad), playing songs like Iron Maiden’s all-time classic “Run to the Hills” and Judas Priest’s metal anthem “Breaking the Law”. When I see little fellas like T Bone and their passion for heavy music, my hope for a better future for mankind gets renovated, so don’t waste your time and go check his YouTube videos. They’re surely going to make your day a lot better.

Back to the concert, it was around 8:30pm when the iconic vocalist Klaus Meine, the flammable guitarists Matthias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker, the talented bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and the one and only drummer Mikkey Dee hit the stage with an avalanche of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll hits, starting with a fantastic song from their 2015 album Return to Forever, the rockin’ Going Out With a Bang, already showing the night was going to be insanely fun. Let’s say that the first part of the show worked more like a “warm-up”, with the band jamming and rocking nonstop, generating a very good vibe and showing why they’re still alive and kicking after so many decades on the road. That first segment of the show had as its highlights the classic The Zoo, the fairly new but amazing We Built This House, and from their mini-acoustic set (including a weird but useful drum kit by Mikkey) I would say the touching ballad Send Me an Angel definitely stole the spotlight.

After that, Mr. Klaus Meine simply introduced one of the band’s biggest and most beautiful classics, Wind of Change, obviously hypnotizing all of us with the song’s renowned whistling, followed by another sensational new song titled Rock ‘n’ Roll Band and their awesome tribute to the most badass rocker that this world will ever see, Lemmy Kilmister, playing a cover version of Motörhead’s hit Overkill. Right after that, Mikkey offered us all an amazing drum solo (which put the little T Bone into a state of pure ecstasy), while the rest of the band was getting ready for a flawless Hard Rock attack comprised of nothing more, nothing less than Blackout, Big City Nights, No One Like You, Still Loving You (what a lovely moment of the show!) and Rock You Like a Hurricane. What else can you ask for, right?

Before this review of the show is over, I just wanted to mention two things that truly caught my attention during the concert, one in a very positive way, while the other was quite sad.  First, I was completely impressed with the fact that Mr. Rudolf Schenker is almost 70 years old and he keeps running frantically around the stage, screaming and interacting with the fans, and playing his guitar as if he was in his early 30’s. That was plain awesome, and definitely an inspiration for me and lots of other fans on how you can get old but remain young at heart, enjoying life until the end (just like Lemmy did, by the way). On the other hand, while Mr. Schenker was a role model to all of us, there were a few spoiled bi… I mean, girls, that thought that just because they’re (still) young and pretty they can do whatever they want, including being rude, disrespectful and annoying to anyone around them. One of them was so disrespectful to a guy next to me, elbowing him and pretending he was harassing her, to the point everyone close to that scene even stooped enjoying the concert for a few moments until security finally (and fortunately) took that stupid Barbie doll away. I hope when she gets old, and she will, she learns how to be a better person and how to respect other people. Well, Little T Bone is only 13 and he already knows how to behave in a rock and metal concert, as well as other kids that attended the show with their parents. It’s just a matter of learning what true respect is at home, right? And I hope that next time Scorpions take Toronto by storm with another faultless performance like that, that irksome girl is somewhere else, like at a Justin Bieber concert. Let the real bands for the real fans, lady.

Setlist
Intro
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance (with Ingo Powitzer)
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Overkill (Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo
Blackout
Big City Nights

Encore:
No One Like You
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane

Band members
Klaus Meine – lead vocals
Matthias Jabs – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars
Rudolf Schenker – rhythm guitars, lead guitars, backing vocals
Paweł Mąciwoda – bass guitar
Mikkey Dee – drums

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Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 07/15/2017)

On a pleasant summer day in the city of Toronto, over 18,000 metalheads had a beautiful time screaming, singing, jumping up and down, raising their horns and “climbing like a monkey” to the flammable music by the unparalleled Iron Maiden.

OPENING ACT: Ghost

As opposed to last year’s Iron Maiden concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, when it was freaking cold and a snow blizzard covered the city and made driving a true nightmare, this Saturday the weather couldn’t be more perfect, with a temperature close to 30 degrees in a sunny day, resulting in another memorable night for all Maidenmaniacs that attended the concert at the always amazing Budweiser Stage (which used to be called Molson Canadian Amphitheatre). You could see in the eyes of the fans that everyone was in a great mood, probably because they spent the whole day getting ready for the concert, drinking beer, enjoying a nice BBQ or simply listening to Iron Maiden while getting tanned by the nice afternoon sun. And besides, everyone would have the whole Sunday to recover before returning to work on Monday (unless you were also seeing Metallica on Sunday, but that’s a different story).

It was around 7:30pm when the opening act hit the stage, Heavy Metal blue-eyed boys GHOST, who for some reason are deeply loved by most musicians, but not as much by fans of metal music. Even Metallica’s James Hetfield himself was at the venue watching the performance by Papa Emeritus III (also known as Tobias Forge) and his nameless ghouls. Anyway, this was my second time seeing Ghost, once again opening for Iron Maiden as in 2014 in the Czech Republic, and this time was way better than the first, I must admit. Papa Emeritus III was more dynamic on stage, more communicative and less “stuck” to the pope gimmick. A considerable amount of fans that were at the venue enjoyed their performance, singing together with the band songs like Ritual, Year Zero and Absolution, and as their performance wasn’t too long I guess not even the most diehard fan of Iron Maiden got bored with Ghost.

Setlist
Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song)
Square Hammer
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Ritual
Cirice
Year Zero
Absolution
Mummy Dust
Monstrance Clock

Band members
Papa Emeritus III (Tobias Forge) – vocals
Nameless Ghouls – all instrumentalists:

  • Fire – lead guitarist
  • Ether – rhythm guitarist
  • Water – bassist
  • Wind – keyboardist
  • Earth – drummer

IRON MAIDEN

Finally, after over one year (and another cold winter), it was time for Toronto to scream one more time for the one and only IRON MAIDEN, this time during their The Book Of Souls World Tour 2017, the second leg of their majestic tour promoting their 2015 masterpiece The Book Of Souls. The setlist was pretty much the same as last time, except for Tears of a Clown being replaced with The Great Unknown, and the saddest change of all time, Hallowed Be Thy Name being replaced with Wrathchild due to a legal dispute with retired rock band manager Barry McKay, who is taking Steve Harris and Dave Murray to court over the song. Barry claims Hallowed Be Thy Name reproduces major parts of a song titled “Lying in my Shadow”, written by musician Brian Quinn (under the name Brian Ingham), and because of that Iron Maiden couldn’t play one of their most beautiful and powerful classics during their 2017 tour.

That didn’t stop Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris & Co. to kick ass one more time on stage for the delight of over 18,000 metalheads at the Budweiser Stage, blasting as usual a well-balanced mix of old school songs and newer compositions. Fans were already pumped up during the classic “Doctor Doctor” intro, exploding into sheer ecstasy when Bruce appeared at the top of the band’s Mayan-inspired stage to ignite their “ritual” with the initial spoken words of their new classic If Eternity Should Fail. After that it was an avalanche of hits played to perfection with Bruce interacting with the crowd all the time, while Steve was unstoppable with his galloping bass and Janick seemed as if he was high on something so electric his performance was. And I guess I don’t need to say how awesome Adrian, Dave and Nicko were with their instruments, right? There was only one minor issue with Bruceç mic, which kept failing a little once in a while, but nothing that could harm such sensational concert.

In my humble opinion, the best sequence of the night started with the classic Children of the Damned, where Bruce gave his already traditional speech about most of the fans not being born when the song was written and, for the ones born in 83 or 84, they might be the true “children of the damned”, conceived when the song was written in 82 (as Bruce mentioned, your parents had sex at least once in their lives!). After such stylish composition, the band invited all of us to fly with them and “fight” the Red Baron in the high-octane Death or Glory, with Bruce and his monkey mask enticing us to “climb like a monkey”, a fun move he started last year that became sort of mandatory every time they play this song. And the stunning sequel went on with the 13-minute hymn The Red and the Black, with all fans jumping up and down and singing the “Oh-oh oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh oh-oh-oh!” parts along with Bruce, followed by one of my top Maiden songs of all time, The Trooper, where guess what? It was time to burst our lungs again screaming the song’s famous “Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh!” together with the band. And closing their killer sequel, the imposing Powerslave, which almost made me blind with its initial flames as I was quite close to the stage.

The newer songs like The Great Unknown and the epic The Book of Souls (where Eddie had his heart “ripped out” by Bruce) kept their momentum going, making everyone even more excited for their final batch of unparalleled classics such as Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast (with the stage fires making us literally burn), and Wasted Years. However, it was their 2000 creation Blood Brothers that really stole the show, with all fans signing its heartening lyrics together with the band, after Bruce’s inspiring intro where he spoke about how diverse and welcoming the city of Toronto is, and how there shouldn’t be no differences among us all, as we’re all blood brothers. What a brilliant performance of such amazing tune, I have to say! One of the best I’ve seen live together with the one from Rock In Rio III in 2001. As Bruce said close to the end of the show, Iron Maiden are far from being done, and they’ll return to Toronto with more of their unmatched metal music in a not-so-distant future. Needless to say, all 18,000 fans at the concert Saturday are more than eager for that without a shadow of a doubt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hot and sunny day like this Saturday or if it’s in the middle of a cold winter, we all know that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all.

Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Wrathchild
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums