Review by John Jeffrey, Photos by Diana MacDonald
Canandaigua, NY - The 2013 installment of Gigantour (featuring Death Division, Newsted, Hellyeah, Device, Black Label Society, and Megadeth) made it’s third stop of the tour in the Finger Lakes region of New York at the CMAC Amphitheater, which is by far one of the best concert venues in the area. While Gigantour is perhaps the best package tour of the summer, unfortunately, many music fans decided to take a pass on the event. The attendance was surprisingly low, with reports of less than 2,000 presale tickets being sold prior to the day of the show. To make matters worse, although there were many great performances put on by the bands throughout the day, the entire show was marred by sound problems, which made listening to most of the bands an unenjoyable experience.
Gigantour had a mid-afternoon start with the opening band, Death Division. Death Division is an unsigned band, managed by Megadeth leader, Dave Mustaine’s son. While Dave Mustaine cites Death Division’s Rick Di Marco as his favorite new lead guitarist, unfortunately, no on in the crowd had the opportunity to join in with Mustaine’s assessment, as the mix was so muddied you couldn’t hear any of Di Marco’s leads when being played. Death Division certainly shows promise, but their poor sound that day put a damper on creating much enthusiasm from the crowd.
Next on the bill was Newsted. Named after front man and former Metallica bassist, Jason Newsted, the crowd livened up as the metal community made it clear that they had not forgotten Newsted’s past as one-quarter member of one of metal’s biggest bands of all time. The band’s sound is very reminiscent of classic Metallica. With riffs sounding like something from the “Black” album, and Newsted’s vocals conjuring up images of a young James Hetfield on the mic, Newsted is definitely on to something good. Playing songs from their upcoming, self-titled release (which is slated for an August release date), the early Gigantour attendees showed their approval by giving Newsted a rousing applause after each song.
Vinnie Paul’s MKII version of Pantera, Hellyeah, proved that louder doesn’t necessarily mean better. While the sound at the CMAC improved from Death Division to Newsted, the superfluously loud Hellyeah were easily the worst sounding band of the day. Between Vinnie Paul’s overbearing constant double bass, mixed with the overly distorted guitars and singer Chad Gray doing his best Phil Anselmo impersonation (complete with his cut-off cargo pants and Mohawk), the sound was a big sloppy mess with no real definition to be heard between any of the instruments or vocals.
David Draiman (singer of Disturbed), took the stage next and proceeded to suck the life and energy out of the crowd with his new band, Device. While playing an entire set to pre-recorded backing tracks, watching Device was like seeing Disturbed, but with no good songs. The only thing that brought the crowd back to life was when they ended their set with a Nine Inch Nails cover song. I don’t know if the crowd was more happy that they played a NIN song, or that they were just glad that their set was finally over.
The last band before headliner’s Megadeth was Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society. More like a cult than a society, fans of this band seemed to be mostly comprised of hippies and bikers. Not that there’s anything wrong with either faction, it’s just surreal to see the stark contrast between the two groups, both heavily enjoying the band. Zakk was as entertaining as ever, as his unrivaled guitar wizardry is testament to the fact that he is still at the top of his game. Unfortunately, Zakk seems to be so caught up on the concept of being “loud” to the point that it sacrifices the overall sound of his band. The guitars were so loud that it engulfed the entire sound of the band in a sonic white noise. You would think such a phenomenal guitar player would be more concerned with how his band actually sounded, as opposed to how many decibels he’s cranking out. While the crowd really seemed to be in to Black Label Society’s set early on, Zakk’s guitar solo seemed to go on forever, and really killed the momentum of the show. The crowd got back into it when they ended their set with the fan-favorite “Still Born”.
As the lights went out, I could see the sparsely filled venue had started to fill up, and after a short change over, Megadeth was ready to take the stage. Opening the show with one of the best rock riffs ever, “Trust,” Megadeth commanded and dazzled the crowd with an awesome stage setup, complete with video screens and an amazing light show. Unfortunately, the sound issues continued through Megadeth’s set, as the soundman struggled to get the mix right between the guitars and vocals. When you could clearly hear Mustaine’s vocals, you couldn’t hear his or Chris Broderick’s guitars, and when they raised their guitar levels, the vocals would disappear completely. Sound issues aside, the band was as tight as ever, and played a great assortment of Megadeth classics, and threw in three songs from the latest “Super Collider” CD.
While this year’s Gigantour may have looked good on paper, unfortunately, some of the bands just didn’t “bring it” live. Thankfully, Megadeth’s headlining sets made it worth the price of admission alone. Hopefully, the next Gigantour will feature a better lineup and soundmen who will do the bands justice.
Special thanks to Scott Barberio, Dana Kaiser and Shannon Struzik.