Sometimes it’s hard to say something new about a band who’s been crushing stages for almost 30 years other than, “Yep… still crushing.” Walking into the Matthew Knight Arena on the University of Oregon campus to see Megadeth for the first time so late in their career, I’m not sure what I was expecting to see; I just knew it would be great.
The host of support bands from Suicidal Tendencies to Amon Amarth (note: check out their insanely Epic album covers and catch their viking longship set piece in person some time) each brought their own fanatic crowd and the energy was so high the entire show that, even between sets, people would storm around yelling and pumping each other up outside the beer, merch, and popcorn lines. Yes, one guy basically circle pitted his way toward popcorn while yelling about how awesome his popcorn was going to be.
Despite being a tour for Dystopia, an album that came out nearly eight months ago, the setlist was so diverse that I don’t think anyone could have been very disappointed. They came out in epic fashion to the beginning of “Prince of Darkness” from Risk, blasted through the first three songs that span over a quarter of a century (Hangar 18, The Threat Is Real, Tornado of Souls) and continued to play crowd favorites from most of their albums.
Dave and Kiko traded solos all night as they all constantly traded places, making full use of their wireless systems. They brought it down a couple times with Kiko playing a pretty inspired acoustic intro to Conquer or Die before switching back to his custom electric to crush out the rest of it in all distorted glory. I’ve liked every guitar player Mustaine has ever tapped for the band, but Kiko adds a level of flair to it that I never thought possible (or appropriate) for Megadeth. His solos almost have a smooth vibe to them. Same notes everyone has been hearing for decades, but they just sound…. smoother, more soulful even.
Dave Ellefson pumped his fist through the night, doing an amazing job of laying down his lines and pumping the crowd at the same time. Combined with the new addition of the constantly fan-blown locks of Belgian drummer Dirk Verbeuren, the rhythm section was as solid as I could have ever hoped it to be.
It was a great night and it was worth waiting 25 years to finally see Megadeth play. The video presentation built into a creepy silo / area 51-style bunker set piece was a great backdrop to a great set of songs. Mustaine was so appreciative of the audience and let them know that multiple times. He even shared a few stories about the origins of a couple songs (…a Catholics vs Protestants fiasco at a Northern Ireland gig inspiring the next-day writing of Holy Wars, for instance).
I could see how touring mostly the same songs for decades could wear a band down. To my elation last night, I can report to you that Megadeth’s love for their music – and their fans – is alive and well. Here’s to another decade of face meltings by such a killer band.