Not so different from the halcyon days of Ozzfest or Lollapalooza, Gigantour has become an annual staple in the music community. At the same time, the tour is among the last of a dying breed. The preponderance of festivals and their emerging popularity has caused a sort of death to the travelling circus of large tours. Those that still exist, such as the Mayhem festival and, for those inclined, the Warp tour, have been corporatized and transformed into musical billboard advertisements.
Amidst this dying breed of touring stands Megadeth's Gigantour, which lacks the splendor of Ozzfest or Lollapalooza, but nevertheless serves as a showcase for some of the most cutting edge, and concurrently most legendary names in heavy metal. To that end, Dave Mustaine (and tour promoters, organizers, labels, reps, etc,) had assembled a fearsome foursome of Lacuna Coil, Volbeat, Motörhead and naturally, Megadeth.
Italian metallers Lacuna Coil were given a scant half hour to make their mark on the audience, and they did not take their time for granted. With new album "Dark Adrenaline" freshly available for purchase, the band's brief time on stage was punctuated with songs from their latest effort. "Upsidedown," "Kill the Light" and album kickstarter "Trip the Darkness" rounded out the meat and potatoes of the band's evening. Following Cristina Scabbia's powerful effort on the last of those songs, the band finished their night with the equally emotive "Spellbound."
For those who showed up late to see the two headline acts, they missed the evening's jewel. Volbeat, the Danish hard rock/heavy metal powerhouse, absolutely stole the show. Volbeat blasted through a virile set filled with energy and complete with Mercyful Fate's Hank Shermann filling in for the departed Thomas Bredahl on guitar (and by "departed," I mean 'left the band.' He's still alive.) As the house lights fell, the band ripped open with the pummeling drums of "A Warrior's Call," and backed that left hook up with an uppercut in the form of "Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood." The crowd helped with the choruses on "Sad Man's Tongue," and was willing to get up for "Who They Are." After a riff-rocked cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to be With You," the Danes eventually closed out with "Still Counting." Michael Poulsen remains an excitable frontman, channeling equal parts Johnny Cash and James Hetfield. He fuels the entire act by himself, leading the band through the crashes and cages of on-stage performance. Their set was loud but controlled, each thud and chord sounding near-album quality in both force and execution.
Playing a little word association, I am willing to bet that when the word "Motörhead" comes up, the first two terms that come to mind, in some order, are "Lemmy" and "Ace of Spades." Knowing that England's kings of rock and roll (or, to more correctly quote Lemmy, "rucknroll,") were in the building and would be performing meant that both of those associations would be on full display. As the band rolled through "Bomber" and "Damage Case," Lemmy is every bit the man he's always been; he walks with casual confidence, sporting his usual cowboy hat and leather boots. Lemmy is never hurried, never out of control, and his prowess in showmanship comes from the fact that he possesses not one ounce of it. Lemmy, and by extension Motörhead, tore through their set in workmanlike fashion, without a shred of pretense. This is the cross that Motörhead fans must bear and accept; that as the band plays new hits like "I Know How to Die" and old standards like "Killed by Death," there is little chance of experiment or awe-striking stage performance. The band's most spontaneous moment came during Mickey Dee's long drum solo during "The One to Sing the Blues." With all that said however, Motörhead is never a bad show; they are too accomplished and too professional to give the audience anything but their musical best. So it was on this night, as the power trio closed out their night with the crowd favorite "Overkill" (albeit with only one extra run on the double kick finish.)
Megadeth's set was a series of both triumphs and letdowns. Musically, the band sounded sharp and as brilliant as ever, with Broderick and Mustaine trading their customary solos during a thunderous "Hanger 18" (which is always, always a better song on stage than on disc.) The percussion was a little too sharp, however. With only one kick drum vibrating, I have no scientific evidence, but observational evidence would suggest that Shawn Drover is using drum triggers for many of the tougher fills. Whether or not that bothers you as a fan is a matter of personal preference, but it absolutely needs to be noted. My friend on the inside tells me that the rig Drover uses is notoriously accommodating toward that type of thing.
While set opener "Trust" and follow up "Wake Up Dead" were excellent, the set hit a snag with "In My Darkest Hour." Dave Mustaine's vocals, through intention or accident (and I assume intention, since I have heard this about multiple dates on this tour,) were totally and completely buried. Now, Mustaine is far from a great vocalist, but "In My Darkest Hour" is a fairly repetitive song without being able to hear the vocal carousing.
Still, I don't want to sound like I'm grousing. The set was propelled (and dare I say, resurrected,) by the beautifully dire "Dawn Patrol," which was followed by a very strong "Public Enemy no. 1" Dave Mustaine still seems reserved following his summer surgery, but is has not diminished his fire for playing, or ability to play in the least. He still lets his guitar scream with abandon, and he feeds off both the youthful exuberance of Chris Broderick and the professionalism of Dave Ellefson.
For "A Tout Le Monde," Mustaine brought Cristina Scabbia back onto the stage and turned the song into an effective duet (you still couldn't hear Dave, but your brain filled in the gaps.) Megadeth then finished their set with the compulsory two song dance of "Symphony of Destruction" and "Peace Sells."
The encore was a one-song affair, blasting through the multiple acts of "Holy Wars...the Punishment Due," before calling an end to the proceedings. The end result of Gigantour 2012 is that the tour has a fantastic undercard and two heavyweights at the top who are partially flawed but still highly entertaining. If you're on the fence about this show, know that you can expect a pro-caliber performance, even if it's not earth-shattering or revolutionary. Also be advised that the second band up may be the best band all night.