Megadeth, Dream Theater and guests brought the heat to Chicago when Gigantour screamed into town ... dragging with it the utter madness of howling vocals, shredding guitars and blast beats from the very depths of the metal genre. Head banging was the order of the day as Dave Mustaine's entourage blew the doors off the windy city and left the bleeding ears of its metal fans in the smoldering rubble.
So Far, So Good ... So Wild
By M. E. Gustafson
Photos by Donna Rickles
It was a hot day in Chicago and at least at the start of this micro-marathon of a show, the crowd was pretty sparse. With two stages and nine bands, fans had to be really energetic, determined to see every band, or be press
(like us) in order to catch all the acts playing on both stages. By the time the main draws for this show played, Tweeter Center would fill up quite a bit more. But, for now, it certainly wasn?t hard to find a great place to watch any performance from.
Bobaflex had the honor of starting the day?s proceedings from the 2nd
stage. They blazed into their set with ?Six Feet Underground? from their new album
Apologize For Nothing, with high energy and non stop movement from the brothers McCoy and
company. Unfortunately, there weren?t many people around to hear them yet and the ones that
were just kinda stood around nodding their heads. Undaunted, Shaun announced ?This song is about a girl who gets violent when she has sex. . .? segueing into ?Bright Red Violent Sex.?
As they continued to showcase songs from the new album, during ?Got You Trapped,? Shaun kept jumping down into the security area and at one point did a stage dive that almost landed him flat on the ground, but the fans ran and caught him at the last minute. Moral: If there aren?t that many people around, be careful where you dive! Marty, Tommy, Mike, Jerod and Shaun put on a great show with their own brand of nu-metal and closed with ?Better Than Me? to a slightly larger and much more involved audience.
Then it was time to run to the main stage to catch Nevermore. The area in front of the
main stage was even more sparsely populated than the 2nd stage had been. The most striking things about this band was front man Warrel Dane?s long, platinum blond hair, which he swung around a lot,
the extreme difficulty in hearing the vocals clearly and the listless, tiny crowd.
Dane announced the next song was off their new album This Godless Endeavor, called ?Born.? The song started with rapid drumming carried off masterfully by Van Williams, while Jim Sheppard held the heavy bass line throughout and Jeff Loomis showed off his guitar chops. Yet, the people in the audience still looked bored. The band didn?t move around the stage much, but you could tell they were giving their all to the performance, even if it was only for a small crowd, as they continued with three more songs from the new album before harking back to
Politics Of Ecstasy for ?This Sacrament.? The eerie stage backdrop from the cover of
Enemies Of Reality took on even greater meaning as they closed with the title song from that album.
Dry Kill Logic
When Dry Kill Logic took the 2nd stage there were many more people gathered in
the pit. Cliff Rigano?s aggressive delivery already had them responding to ?Perfect Enemy? with raised fists and nodding heads. Rigano announced the next song as ?Paper Tiger? off the album
Dead And Dreaming and the band went full on with this song. Jason Bozzi introed with dreads flying, Phil Arcuri beat the hell out of his kit (with Dime Bag taped to the front ? Way To GO!), Danny Horboychuk, proving you don?t need long hair for it to fly, ripped through the bass line and Cliff got so into it he actually turned red in the face!
Before DKL broke into ?Lost,? Rigano had a little dedication to go with it . . . ?This song goes out to every radio station that does not play
Dry Kill Logic!? to which the crowd responded ?That?s fuckin? right!?
They kept the crowd involved throughout their set with lots of pumping fists and head-banging, closing out with ?Buckles? and ?Rot.? Things were looking up at the 2nd
stage, despite the heat.
Arriving back at the main stage just in time to see Dillinger Escape Plan, at least there was a small audience clustered in the pit area. Having never seen or heard this band before, their stage antics were a site to behold! These guys were going crazy right from the minute they hit the stage, zipping around, jumping and screaming, most noticeably guitarist Ben Weinman.
Red, white and yellow lights moved all over blinking and lots of strobes added to the effect. And this was just the first impression! Greg Puciato was a real screamer, which made it impossible to tell what he was singing, but during the first song the whole band moved constantly with Weinman and guitarist Brian Benoit slamming into each other, bassist Liam Wilson adding his jump stylings and Chris Pennie beating the hell out of his drums with a savage look on his face.
The Dillinger Escape Plan
They played ?Panasonic Youth? followed by ?43% Burnt? and ?Mullet Burden? with great drumming, great guitar bridges, lots of screaming, a pushing contest between Greg and Brian and ending with one long, sustained scream. Meanwhile, in the pit, there was a lot of head-banging and moshing going on and even a slight increase in the numbers. Greg announced ?Baby?s First Coffin? and during the song threw a full cup of beer out at the audience. His singing slowed down in the middle and he started pointing at people, giving them a piercing stare until they looked away. The band played a couple more songs and closed with ?Sunshine The Werewolf.? This band was something to see. It?s too bad there weren?t very many people around to see them.
Then Symphony X thundered onto stage 2. So far the bands had been young
metal core types, especially DEP. This band was more middle-aged rocker dudes (no disrespect intended) that sounded a lot like ?70s Rock. They also had the best crowd yet! People were immediately excited ? head-banging, jumping and dancing around to ?Inferno? followed by ?Evolution.? Russell Allen?s scratchy vocals and Michael Romeo?s wailing guitar really had this crowd going and a lot of them were recording on their cell phones. Next up was ?Wicked? from
Michael Pinnella?s keyboard work sounded like heavy synth bordering on industrial, while Michael LePond III held the bass line and Jason Rullo kept the beat behind Romeo?s classic rock style guitar sound. The crowd was eating it up and this audience was far more diverse than what you'd find at most metal shows. People with mohawks and mullets alike graced the area. Winding up their set with ?Sea Of Lies and ?Sins,?
Symphony X pulled off the best crowd reaction thus far and it seemed the 2nd Stage was far more popular than
main stage at this point in the program.
As the day progressed, so did the heat and humidity, and the trek to the main stage
for Fear Factory?s set seemed a lot longer than before. Maybe that explains the low turnout and apathy of the audience gathered in front of the stage. By now it was REALLY hot! Not usually inspired by backdrops, the one behind
Fear Factory was an exception. The colored ?Wolf?s Face? logo made out of the opposing Fs from the
Transgression album cover was really striking. Christian Wolbers, Byron Stroud, Raymond Herrara and Burton Bell roared into ?Demanufacture? and as Bell chanted the final line ?I?ve got no more fucking respect,? the crowd joined in. ?Hey, hey, hey, hey? and Herrara?s rapid drum beat heralded the beginning of ?Martyr,? although the audience was less than
Burton C. Bell
Apparently the heat was too much even for the metal fans. A weird, neon greenish light bathed the stage and the crowd at the beginning of ?Cyberwaste? as Bell urged them to sing along. ?Nothing you say matters to us!? he chanted over and over, to which the people shouted back ?Fuck You!? The music kicked in and they finished the rest of the song. Next up were old classics ?Acres Of Skin? and ?Shock.? By now the crowd was getting involved, with fists pumping to the beat along with the band as Bell shouted ?Here It Comes . . .? and the familiar record scratch sound sent FF into the crowd favorite ?Edgecrusher.? Bell stepped up and asked ?Is everybody awake?? Everyone screamed ?Yeah!? Then he asked ?Who hasn?t seen Fear Factory before?? A lot of people answered ?No,? to which he replied ?Welcome to the family!? and the opening notes of ?Transgression? from the new album of the same name were heard.
The pit was moving and people were dancing in the middle, but the ones around the edges were still just standing around.
Apparently nothing was going to get their butts in gear but the headliner. At the end of this song, the band started joking around and playing Michael Jackson?s ?Beat It? with Burton doing a fairly good imitation of an MJ vocal. To get a rise out of the audience he put his arm up like an applause meter to get their reaction to his impersonation. It was pretty funny and people seemed to get a kick out of it.
Fear Factory wrapped up their set with ?Archetype? and it was time to head back to
stage 2 for the last time.
Life Of Agony had a different approach to things in a lot of ways starting with their stage set. The backdrop was a simple black curtain with their name printed in white, but the floor of the stage was completely white, like they were standing on top of a big bounce card. There were no lights on the stage, just this big white floor with daylight bouncing off it onto the band. The sun was setting, so it looked really cool with that white floor. The band had a very honest approach to metal; light on the soloing and an emphasis on the chunk. They were tight and energetic and the crowd was into them right from the get go, especially
Keith Caputo as he stalked the stage and fired up the audience.
Barely into their first song, he shouted ?Let me hear you Chicago! Bullshit! Let me fuckin? hear you!? as they sang ?Don?t Bother? and ?This Time.? The crowd got rowdy, as Alan Robert and Sal Abruscato picked the tempo up, and moshed, jumped, pumped fists in the air and flipped hair around. Joey Z yelled for a circle pit and got his request immediately.
Caputo stepped forward to say the next song was from their new album
Broken Valley and ?Is dedicated to anyone who?s ever lost a mother, father, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend on drugs,? as they began a moving rendition of ?The Day He Died.?
Caputo then loudly declared ?This ain?t no fucking cookie cutter band. We write about real issues,? and proceeded with ?Through And Through.?
Keith Caputo & "Some Guy"
Life Of Agony
With the easy access afforded by the 2nd stage, he jumped down to the barricade and grabbed some guy around the neck and they both sang into the mic together. That was one thrilled fan! Crowd favorite ?Love To Let U? followed and the audience was totally into LOA, singing along with
Caputo?s encouraging ?Let me hear you! Oh Yeah! Fuck Yeah!?
Life Of Agony rounded out their set with ?Wicked Ways? and ?Calm? and closed with ?Underground,? emphasized by the line ? . . . we are the new underground!? as a fitting end to the day?s performances on the 2nd Stage.
Back at the main stage, the area was finally filled up with at least a fair sized crowd. The diversity was a plus and a nice change from the clone element seen at a lot of metal shows these days. Ranging from teens there to see the reason they started playing guitar, to adults remembering the aggressive music of their youth, to little kids who stayed close to their parents, all there to hear bands that had inspired so many.?
A black curtain covered the stage and was eventually lowered toward the pit and pulled off to reveal
Dream Theater?s backdrop ? the album cover from their latest release,
Octavarium, with the addition of an artistic impression of a long-haired figure throwing it's head to the side, almost as if ducking from the enormous silver spheres above ? and all their equipment on the stage. Soon after, the infamous and talented
Dream Theater took the stage, minus James LaBrie, cueing themselves in with an excerpt from "A Clockwork Orange."
Anyone who has ever picked up an instrument has to give it to these guys. Watching John Petrucci's and John Myung's fingers locking in with Mike Portnoy's drums was a show in itself. The crowd leapt from their seats and went totally wild. As La Brie entered the stage, the screams increased 10 fold as the band launched into ?Root Of All Evil? amid blue and green lights everywhere and LaBrie kind of skip danced around during the solos. Always great showman, they still seemed truly excited to be there and the crowd was TOTALLY into them. Not a single person sat down during their entire set.
?Honor Thy Father? was up next with lots of creative lighting, followed by ?Panic Attack? with LaBrie muttering the words continuously as the song got quieter, the uninitiated wondering at his style and the length of their songs or if this was even another song, growing even more confused as they continued into ?Fatal Tragedy? after everyone left the stage except Jordan Rudess on his pivoting keyboard stand as he finished his solo before returning.
John Myung, Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci
Mike Portnoy hit his sticks in the air to get the crowd clapping along at the beginning of?
?Just Let Me Breathe? and the crowd was totally with the band on this one. James LaBrie played tambourine and people air guitared along with John Petrucci?s solo. Mike kept people clapping with the drumsticks and Jordon entered the moog zone. LaBrie began walking in huge circles on the stage, then came to the front and was bottom lit in red, giving him an almost demonic look for the song ?Lie.? Every time he sang ?Don?t tell me,? the lights came up very bright and the crowd sang it with him. One of the roadies tossed a drumstick at Portnoy and soon they were playing catch between the drum kit and the side of the stage while he continued to play. Guess it never hurts to show off a little! During the featured (and extended) guitar and drum solos at the end, LaBrie disappeared and the solos were totally insane! The crowd went absolutely crazy over this.
The next song slowed things down a little and started off with the keyboard intro to ?Never Enough.? LaBrie walked around holding the mic stand, while Petrucci and Myung stood back to back playing. Magenta triangles of light swept the stage and the audience. Rudess was banging on the keyboard so quickly and with so much force that from the audience viewpoint it almost looked like he was playing tom toms. Then James LaBrie put his hands up and immediately everyone joined him. As the first notes of ?Home? rang out, everyone in the crowd screamed louder and LaBrie yelled ?Let?s see your hands Chicago!? Portnoy tapped his sticks again and everyone clapped along as the song progressed from the gong and sitar sound to rock and DT was off and running once again with LaBrie encouraging ?Let?s see those hands? along the way, before he once again left the stage during the massive solos. At the end of the song he reappeared to say ?Thank You Chicago! We had a Great Time!? and everybody walked off stage.
The crowd continued to scream for them and they eventually came back for an Encore. A single blue light panned the audience until the band was back on the stage. James LaBrie pointed to the crowd with the mic stand and threw his arm around John Myung while he sang ?As I Am,? to everyone?s delight. Purple lights began to flicke and he said ?I know you know this song, I want to hear your lovely voices? as the band played their hit ?Pull Me Under,? usually the very last song of their set in most locations. But, this night, they added a special treat and sang ?Take Away My Pain.? LaBrie gave the peace sign and said ?Thank you, Good Night!? and all the lights on the stage came up, but the song ?Singing In The Rain? by Gene Kelly was played over the PA system. The band came back out, walked to the front of the stage, put their arms around each other and bowed. What a FANTASTIC finish to a fantastic show! Especially for fans that know the connection between ?Take Away My Pain? and Gene Kelly. This time
Dream Theater was done for real.?
James MacDonough, Shawn Drover, Glen Drover
Megadeth fittingly started their set through a wall of smoke as people in the pit shook their fists in time with the drum beat and guitar solo. The screams of the crowd increased 10 fold again when the figure of Dave Mustaine appeared with a white spotlight on him. The lights went out and pyrotechnics detonated like the sound of gunshots as all were wrenched head first into the band?s aggressive set, beginning with ?Blackmail The Universe.? Backed by a banner that read "Unequal Injustice For All" Mustaine grimaced through a shroud of rusty blonde hair as he sang. Stage lights and strobe lights went crazy, while at the end of the song two fireballs went up and there was a loud bang. The audience went absolutely nuts. Finally, this was the band most of them had come to see and there was not a person who sat down through the rest of the night.
The band tore through ?Set The World Afire,? ?Skin O? My Teeth,? ?Wake Up Dead? and ?In My Darkest Hour,? not necessarily in that order or at this time, but sometimes ya just have to rely on a posted set list. James MacDonough held down the bottom and took back up vocal responsibilities. He was also probably the most mobile part of the band. He definitely kept up the energy on stage, while being locked in with drummer Shawn Drover. Drover?s drumming was precise and moving as his arms and head whipped around behind his multi-cymbal drum cage. Brother Glen Drover proved he was a more than capable lead guitarist, adding some of his own flair to the band?s material. As people waved sticks and T-shirts during ?The Scorpion,? Dave moved aside and left Glen center stage while Shawn hammered out the beat and strobes went off from all over the stage.
Mustaine asked ?How many people have seen Megadeth before?? To which everyone screamed and jumped around in reply. ?Let?s see if you recognize this song? More pyrotechnics sprayed as the band started playing ?Died Dead Enough,? and went off here and there as they continued to sing. Towards the end of the song fireballs rose in the air and the entire front of the stage lit up with sprays of sparks shooting straight up. In front of the stage there was a full on mosh pit going and people were going crazy all over the venue. An absolutely incredible amount of pyro accompanied this song. As their set continued, Dave pretty much stayed in front of the microphone with his spotlight, while the band was lit with red lights, only taking time to head bang when he played a guitar solo through ?She Wolf,? ?Reckoning Day,? A Toute Le Monde? and ?Angry Again.??
James MacDonough walked back and forth across the stage, clapping to get the crowd to join him, as white lights came up on the stage and bathed the audience at the start of ?Trust.? Mustaine pulled out a 12 String for this song and another pyro display went off on the stage. But then, fireworks shot out into the audience. It looked cool and they didn?t go out very far, but at the same time it was like, these are fireworks you?re shooting out into the crowd ? is that really a good idea? Just a passing thought, but isn?t it supposed to be safety first?
Mustaine took a little mini break and told the audience he always looked forward to playing Chicago. He said ?Now we?re gonna play some old songs. This one is about little green men . . .? as they launched into ?Hanger 18? with Dave jumping up on the drum platform while playing his solo. All the lights went out except the spot on Mustaine for ?Sweating Bullets? and the audience head banged away through most of the songs, happy to experience Megadeth in any form. Glen Drover and Dave Mustaine played off each other during ?Tornado Of Souls? and the pit moshed away to ?Symphony Of Destruction.??
With the words ?What do you mean . . .? the audience clapped for Dave and if possible screamed even louder than they had all night for ?Peace Sells.? They screamed, yelled and sang along with the band until the end of the song, which was also the end of their set. The spotlight shown on Dave Mustaine as he stood in the middle of the stage and held his guitar up over his head; he just stood there for few, then the lights went out, there was a huge bang, he threw the guitar down and walked off the stage. Talk about drama!
Of course the crowd screamed and yelled until the band returned and Mustaine said ?This is going to be our last song, I want to thank you all for coming.? He took the opportunity to introduce the other band members, said ?This is a happy little song about politics . . .? as a drum beat grew in the background and the lights brightened three times before the band kicked into ?Holy Wars.? Once again the crowd screamed and yelled and head banged away until the end. Mustaine said ?Thank you, Good Night!? and the band walked off stage for the last time. Megadeth proved to be a timeless band, even though the project only has one original member. They still played with the same ferocity and skill as they have in each of their transformations. Hopefully there will continue to be greatness every time this band hits the stage.
It was a rare treat to hear bands that played outside of power chords and a 30 second hook. Despite the crowd deficiency, the heat, the stage to stage marathon and some sound issues, Gigantour brought together a diverse group of music styles within the ?metal? realm. It re-introduced bands who have grown and matured with the years, introduced young bands on the cutting edge and brought the masters
Dream Theater and Megadeth together in one place on one day. From that perspective, it was a huge success.
Note: Stay tuned for the full Gigantour experience. We'll be featuring a massive photo gallery soon...