Featuring photography by Michael Bradley (http://www.rockhousephoto.com)
To say it’s been a rough few years for Slayer would be putting it mildly. The classic thrash metal act saw its first setback when longtime guitarist Jeff Hanneman procured a rare disease that left him unable to play, ultimately resulting in his unfortunate passing (a Heinekin-esque backdrop appeared in tribute to Hanneman during show-closer “Angel of Death”). Political issues then plagued the group as drummer Dave Lombardo had a falling out with the band, resulting in a series of ugly accusations on various social media outlets. Yet through the turmoil the group trudged on, with the return on Divine Intervention-era drummer Paul Bostaph and Exodus guitarist Gary Holt bringing some much needed attitude to the band. Perhaps it was precisely because of these setbacks that Slayer’s show at The Tabernacle Saturday, Nov. 22 was such a triumphant performance, fueling the band to perform with more rage and vitality than they’ve shown in years.
Pentagrams and similar iconography danced around a massive curtain as the opening notes of “World Painted Blood” teased the audience with the imminent arrival of the thrash legends. The entire performance was nothing short of ferocious from the moment the aforementioned curtain dropped, and it’s clear Slayer hasn’t forgotten its roots. Much of the performance stemmed from the band’s earlier albums, including the return of Hell Awaits tune “Necrophiliac” and Show No Mercy classic “Die by the Sword.”
The show featured what was perhaps Slayer’s most well-balanced set list in years, excellently combining the classics of the older albums with the more contemporary World Painted Blood and God Hates Us All tracks. Slayer managed to keep the show moving at a consistent break-neck pace and weaved tracks in a natural and effective progression, resulting in an equilibrium that many similar acts struggle to find.
While Kerry King walked around stage headbanging with fans, vocalist and bassist Tom Araya was noticeably bored and frustrated throughout the set. In Araya’s defense, the source of his anger was most likely a projectile beer that pelted the vocalist early on in the performance. Yet for the remainder of the show it felt as if Araya genuinely didn’t want to be there, as the frontman rolled his eyes during “Snuff” and said virtually nothing to the audience aside from thanking them twice. “Thanks for the drink, but I don’t typically drink and play,” he quipped afterwards. Perhaps it was simply an off day, but several audience members noticed the lack of excitement.
Even with the perceived boredom, the band sounded better than they have in years. Holt’s performance in particular was excellent, as he seemingly never missed a note, and Bostaph’s kick drum during “Disciple” could be felt throughout the venue. Veterans King and Araya also played admirably, with Araya’s goosebump-inducing screams during “Angel of Death” and “War Ensemble” sounding better than they have in years.
The performance quelled any potential concern about the band’s future, and while it’s rare to see a band achieve such a sense of consistency over the years, it’s clear why Slayer has maintained an overwhelming popularity. The excellent set list mixed with the band’s unforgiving voracity is truly something to behold, and hearing several Hell Awaits tracks alone is worth the cost of admission. Whether fans were only familiar with “Raining Blood” or knew every incendiary lyric to the group’s deep cuts, Slayer’s performance at The Tabernacle gave any and every fan an excellent opportunity to witness a group of legends at the top of their game.
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