Review by John Jeffrey, Photos by Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Darien, NY – Mother nature delivered a picture perfect day for the abbreviated Rockstar Mayhem concert (which was being referred to locally as the “103.3 Edge’s Summer BBQ” in honor of the WNY radio station), as three of the kings of 80’s hard rock/heavy metal (Anthrax, Motorhead & Slayer) played near flawless sets for the rabid faithful who filled Darien Lake’s PAC.
Although not quite full (with the reserved seating at capacity, and maybe 1/3 of the GA lawn being occupied), for what the somewhat smaller crowd of approximately 6,500 may have lacked in size, it sure made up in enthusiasm. Testosterone was running high as there were several fights that broke out throughout the concert. During Anthrax, it was quite surreal, and almost cinematic, to see a fight involving a group of skinheads happen while Anthrax was playing the ‘war dance’ part of the song “Indians,” which is essentially about the mistreatment of native americans by the ‘white man.’ How ironic?? Then during Slayer, when security wasn’t available, an obnoxious fan, who kept bumping into other fans (including several disabled folks), got punched in the head and knocked out, by someone who just had enough. After hitting the offender, the audience vigilante just yelled “SLAYER!!!” and disappeared into the crowd. Aside from a few malays, the majority of the crowd just seemed content on enjoying the bands with harmless head banging, and providing each group with a deafening applause.
Anthrax opened the show, with a short but powerful 6 song set. Even though they only played one track from their latest CD, “Worship Music” (“Fight “Em Til You Can’t”), it got a huge response from the crowd, especially when they went into the ‘No More!’ refrain from the song. Surprisingly, they played both of their famous covers, “Got The Time” (Joe Jackson) and “Antisocial” (Trust). I would have preferred they played some of their other original songs, but they were obvious rather limited with their opening time slot. Somehow Anthrax never seems to avoid a lineup change, as drummer and founder Charlie Benante was MIA due to a “hand injury,” and it’s also been reported that he currently has some personal issues going on as well. Filling in for Charlie was Shadows Fall drummer, Jason Bittner. Bittner did an outstanding job, and if you weren’t paying attention to who was onstage, you probably didn’t even notice it wasn’t Benante behind the kit. One person you couldn’t avoid paying attention to was singer Joey Belladonna. Joey was really on fire last night, as his vocals were top notch and he was all over the stage, trying to fire up the early crowd. It must be annoying for Anthrax to get stuck opening all of these big festivals, as their performances and songs are just as good as the bands that go on after them. However, it doesn’t seem to matter to them that much, as they thrive on being the ‘under dogs’ of thrash metal.
Motorhead was up next, and if front man Lemmy Kilmeister wasn’t the icon that he is, I feel Motorhead’s set would have fit better if they would have played before Anthrax. Being one of the earliest members of the NWOBHM, Motorhead’s sound is more hard rock, fused with elements of punk, which helped pioneer speed and thrash metal bands like Anthrax and Slayer. It would have been cool to see and hear an evolution of metal, if you will, as the concert went on. That being said, Motorhead played an 11 song set, with most songs being played from their first four records. Oddly enough, they chose to play more songs from the 1991 “1916” CD than from their latest CD, “The World Is Yours” (2010). Mikkey Dee’s drum solo during “The One To Sing The Blues,” although impressive, seemed to have start at an odd time in the set, and kind of killed the flow of their show from my vantage point. Picking up the slack, they ended their set with a 1-2-3 punch, as they played “Killed By Death,” “Ace of Spades” and “Overkill.” After creating a looping sound of feedback with the guitars, the band took their bows and left the stage.
While Metallica may be the ones selling all of the records, real metal heads know that Slayer are the respected kings of the genre. Taking the stage with group’s logo emblazoned with a ring of fire, Slayer brought their brand of hellacious metal to the fans at Darien Lake, with a fury like I’ve never seen or heard before. Playing a 12 song set of pure fan favorites, the group stuck mostly to the material they released from 1985-1990, playing only “Hate Worldwide” from 2009’s “World’s Painted Blood.” On a down note, original guitarist Jeff Hanneman did not perform due to his ongoing recovery from a spider bite, which caused his skin to become necrotic (which sounds fitting for a guy from Slayer), where the guitarist almost lost him arm. Thankfully, Hanneman is recovering well, and hopes to be back with the band soon. Filling in for Jeff was Exodus’ Gary Holt. Holt did exceedingly well, playing all of the Slayer material with an unmatched precision. No fan could be disappointed with his performance. Slayer’s pyrotechnic display was as equally impressive as their music, and as they rang out the last chords of “Raining Blood,” everyone was reminded why Slayer rules!
A very special thanks to Rikki Zazula for allowing us to cover this event.