Nothing If Not Consistent
Megadeth with In This Moment and The Confession at The Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, NH on September 29, 2007
by: Gino Filicetti
Of all the great reasons there are to move to New Hampshire, if it's metal you're looking for, you're in for a disappointment. When I moved here from Toronto in 2000, I knew I'd be giving up a great metal scene, but I had no idea it would take me seven years before I'd actually see a metal show in my new home state (the many times I've been down to Worcester to see the New England Metal Fest doesn't count, since that's in Massachusetts).

The Casino Ballroom has become quite the destination as of late, for bands of every stripe. It has seen its fair share of washed up '80s hair metal bands come and go (and yes, I was *THIS* close to going to see Twisted Sister when they came through). When I caught wind of Megadeth stopping here, I knew I had to twist a few friends' arms into coming with me and finally head on over to see what the fuss was all about. It's a good thing we bought our tickets early, too -- who would have thought the place would sell out weeks before?! Suffice it to say that was the first of many low expectations for this show that would be shattered.

I met up with my metalhead work buddies (a rare breed in my line of work) and we sat for some beer and pub food in the Whale's Tale biker bar next door to the venue. Given the size of the queues to get into the Casino Ballroom, we weren't in much of a rush, and that was a good thing given the attentiveness of the Whale's Tale wait staff of exactly ONE absent minded waiter with absolutely NO peripheral vision whatsoever (I even resorted to doing a double arm wave to grab his attention, but to no avail).

After much regaling of past metal glories and a hearty meal of french fries, fried chicken and a veggie burger (we'll keep it to ourselves who the poof was that ordered THAT monstrosity), we plunged into the brisk fall night and walked the twenty paces to the venue. The queues had disappeared and we were in the Ballroom in no time. We emerged in between sets and apparently had missed the whole of The Confession's set. Unfortunately, none of us knew much about this band from Orange County, so we didn't feel a great loss.

Next up was In This Moment, out of North Hollywood, CA. Only vaguely knowing the name of this band, I had no clue what their sound was going to be like. I'll admit to some pre-conceived notions when the band took the stage looking like très chic, nu-metal hipsters fronted by a baby doll, dress clad, hot blonde named Maria. It took mere seconds for those notions to be shattered when the band broke into their first tune and Maria's neck became unhinged and proceeded to showcase some impressive headbanging ability, followed by an equally impressive series of shrieks and growls.

In This Moment continued through their set with much vigour and a good stage presence; enough to keep us jaded old geezers from fucking off and finding a place to sit and comfortably sip our beers. The set lasted about 40 minutes and consisted mainly of tunes from their album _Beautiful Tragedy_.

At the end of their set I was mildly impressed with a band I had initially pegged as formulaic and oh so typical; however, that impression didn't last long. Whilst I was in queue for the measly limit of ONE beer per person per order, one of my buds was over at the merch booth talking to the In This Moment team. Interested in meeting the band (as Maria incessantly begged the crowd to come and meet them in the booth after their set) and buying a copy of their CD, he asked about getting it autographed. It turns out that the band was MORE than willing to sign a copy of any CD that a new found fan was willing to purchase... as long as said fan paid the FIVE DOLLAR surcharge for such an honour to be bestowed upon them! In this day and age of ubiquitous Internet music piracy, you'd think the band would be THRILLED to have new fans that they had just won over with their set come over to purchase a disc. How they could have the gall to CHARGE for an autograph is beyond the pale, and something I've never heard of in my life (and I've been to many a show and met many a band). It was unbelievable and inexcusable, as far as I'm concerned.

At this point my thoughts turned to Megadeth. I thought to myself, "Has it REALLY been fifteen years since I last saw them?". Sure enough, the one and only other time I've seen them live was during the _Countdown to Extinction_ tour. They played the (then brand spanking new) Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto. It wasn't a great show, as far as I could remember. The Amphitheatre is an outdoor venue, and the show was mostly during the day. Megadeth got blown off the stage by an unknown, yet ass-kickingly energetic band named Korn. The only highlight was getting to meet the band backstage when I sat in as Adrian Bromley interviewed them.

9:30pm. The time had come for Megadeth to take the stage. Introducing them were the morning show guys from the local radio station who were sponsoring the show. After a little banter back and forth, they dedicated the show to all the American troops overseas, and that got booed by one person upfront (I had no clue that this had transpired, yet very soon it was made clear to the whole venue). Megadeth rolled onto the stage, one by one: no name new guy after no name new guy until at the very end entered The Dave. I've got to say, I was quite impressed with Mustaine's consistency. He looks EXACTLY the same today as he did all those years ago in the "Peace Sells" video (minus the two sizes too small leather jacket). We're talking over twenty years and the guy's hair is the EXACT same as it was when he was a teenager; VERY impressive, but I digress.

They opened the set with "Sleepwalker", the lead tune on their latest album, _United Abominations_. It was an all around true rendition of a strangely catchy tune. Their next choice was my big shocker of the night: "Take No Prisoners" from the gold standard, _Rust in Peace_. This is when I REALLY got into the show, and it set the stage for my personal experience the rest of the night. I couldn't believe the first "classic" they played just happened to be my all time favourite Megadeth track.

After this came Dave's first interlude, where he felt obliged to respond to the fan who booed the U.S. troops. Dave proceeded to tell the crowd about how he had cut two words out of his vocabulary when he went through his rehab. The "N" word and the "C" word, as he described them. Then he said, "But I'm gonna break that rule for the first time, 'cause anyone who boos our troops is a FUCKING CUNT!". As the crowd roared, Megadeth ripped into another new track, "Gears of War".

And so the night progressed, with more classic, crowd pleasing tunes than I honestly thought I would hear. Regardless, they did play quite a few songs from the new album. Other than the aforementioned, there was "Washington Is Next", "Never Walk Alone...", "You're Dead" and the not-so-new-but-still-appears-on-the-latest-album "A Tout le Monde". Despite the plethora of new songs, the fact remains that Dave wisely chose to ignore the wide gap between _Youthanasia_ and _United Abominations_. Perhaps songs from that era were attempted and widely reviled early on in the tour, or perhaps they knew from the get go that they'd just be wasting their time rehashing that swill.

Either way, I think their choice of classics was well informed and made for a memorable show. "Hangar 18" came on quite early on (I thought they would have left it for an encore), and unfortunately it was VERY disappointing. Perhaps it was the lack of Friedman's Frenetic Fingers that caused my disappointment, or maybe it was because the solos seemed to have been performed with absolutely no soul. Either way, I couldn't help but think that I was listening to someone failing miserably on the hard level of Guitar Hero trying to keep up with "Hangar 18" than the actual flesh and blood Megadeth.

This brings me to the new members of Megadeth. What a shame there wasn't the classic _Rust in Peace_ line-up to really entertain the crowd. Although these guys were competent, they had absolutely no stage presence. Were it not for the spotlight shone on the lead guitarist during solos, I would've never even noticed he was on stage. I think Dave did a good job of hiring good session musicians that know their instruments well, but these guys just aren't up to snuff when it comes to a live show. Who knows, maybe that's just the way Dave intended it?

The show continued, with more and more classics belted out. From _Youthanasia_: "Reckoning Day" and "A Tout le Monde" were played (or is it considered part of the new album now? I'm so confused!). During another one of Dave's intimate interludes he was going on and on (mostly unintelligibly) about some girl up front. I think he said she had a tattoo of _Killing Is My Business..._'s "Rattlehead", but that it had become so wrinkled over the years that it now looked like it said, "Rathead". I guess that was excuse enough for them to belt out the one and only inclusion from _Killing Is My Business..._.

One of the biggest crowd pleasers was of course "Symphony of Destruction". Arguably this is the band's most famous song and they did well to make sure it was the night's truest performance. It easily stood out as the best played song of the night. Next was the only other _Countdown to Extinction_ track, "Ashes in Your Mouth".

It was around the middle of the show that I came to realize another facet of Dave Mustaine's consistency. Guitar change after guitar change -- and I mean this guy went through at least three or four different guitars -- Dave's unwavering penchant for the Gibson Flying V was more than evident. Album after album, show after show, I don't think I've ever seen this guy holding anything BUT a Flying V. His loyalty and dedication are truly impressive!

When "Peace Sells" finally made its way into the set, the anticipation of the crowd was palpable. I know the three of us were anxious to hear it, and for a split second I thought they were going to conclude the night without it seeing the light of day. Towards the end of the set it made its appearance. It easily had the highest degree of crowd sing-along of any track that night, with Mustaine leaving mic duties to the crowd many times throughout.

Tracks from _Rust in Peace_ owned a good percentage of the set list, as they most rightly should. As I mentioned before, this album is the gold standard of thrash in my books; it just doesn't get any better. After the phenomenal "Take No Prisoners" and the unfortunately disappointing "Hangar 18" came a very true rendition of "Tornado of Souls". I was taken aback by this choice. Again, one of my favourite tracks that I never thought was a "classic". But isn't that what every concert goer really wants? Especially when it's a band from your formative years as a metalhead; when the band plays those tunes that you thought were only special to you; that's what it's all about (as cheesy as that sounds, you've got to admit it's true).

As the night drew to a close circa 11:30pm, we knew there would be an encore but couldn't think of what it could possibly be. As far as I was concerned, I heard all the great tracks and had my fill. It became apparent, very shortly, that we had forgotten one of the all time greats. Another appearance from _Rust in Peace_, Megadeth retook the stage in a fury and broke into a song that rings amazingly relevant in our current geo-political environment. Of course I'm talking about "Holy Wars". It was a great way to end a show that was definitely put together to please the old time Megadeth fans like us. Even if the no name band Dave has surrounded himself with were boring to watch, the music kicked ass and the sound at the venue was better than most.

Let's just say that I went to this show with VERY low expectations, and came home with a renewed sense of appreciation for Megadeth and a hankering to listen to all the old discs over and over again. Could be that I was the only one in that crowd feeling this way, but I could care less. It was a great show all around, in my humble opinion.

(article submitted 5/10/2007)

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