Saturday, July 28, 2007

I was a teenage headbanger…

… And now, I’m a middle-aged headbanger, because even a persistent and debilitating week-long battle with some weird hybrid food poisoning/flu wasn’t going to keep me away from Friday’s Slayer and Marilyn Manson concert at the Ford Amphitheater in Tampa. At the risk of oversharing some gross info, I would have worn a diaper and carried a handful of barf bags rather than miss the show. Luckily for everyone involved, I didn’t need to.

We arrived at the Amphitheater some 20 minutes before the scheduled starting time. Since I still wasn’t feeling too hot, I decided to improve my mindset by downing a few Jack & Cokes (yes, I’m a grown-up). I only mention this because while buying my drinks, an unbelievably kind bargirl actually carded me! The lesson: if you want to belie your age, develop some sort of brooding general malaise, drop twenty pounds in a few months so that you look emaciated and perennially exhausted, sleep an average of two hours a night so the bags under your eyes look like 35-gallon Hefties, and violà! Instant youthfulness. My only consolation is that since half of the audience was wasted, and the other half were freakish enough to look like extras in a John Waters film, I blended right in.

The opening act was Bleeding Through, a nondescript screamer band whose only noteworthy contributions were: an unbelievably hot keyboard girl, complete with S&M outfit; numerous references to how honoured they were to open for Slayer & Manson; and several unsuccessful attempts to fire up the mosh pit. Their set was mercifully over within half an hour, clearing the stage for the hardest-playing metal band that ever was, is, or will be: Slayer, motherf*uckers!!!

Oh, sure, Manowar may hold the Guiness World Record as the loudest metal band ever recorded, but no band rocks as hard as Slayer. It simply isn’t possible. From the furious opening number, “Flesh Storm,” through their killer encores, “Raining Blood” and the still-redoubtable “Angel of Death,” Slayer’s set was the most phenomenal, hard-core, cathartic blast o’metal that I have ever experienced. My knees were weak when it was over, and I don’t think this was caused by my illness or the booze. There wasn’t a lot of frill to their show – a few background graphics (mostly the cover artwork of whichever album contained the song they were playing at the time and some anti-religion or anti-war imagery), some moving around on the stage, and some headbanging. That’s it. Slayer know they kick ass, so they don’t bother putting on a crazy show. Instead, they just blow you away with their awesome skill, as you can see in the following clip of a seldom-heard little jewel – a thousand apologies for the lousy video/sound quality, my cheap little camera can only do so much:

Marilyn Manson, on the other hand, is not just a terrific musician, but also a consummate showman. My only complaints: his entrance was overly drawn out and theatrical, even for him, and for some reason (possibly to avoid being blown away by Slayer?), the volume was way too loud during his entire performance. I don’t mind loudness, but when it enters Spinal Tap’s “it goes up to 11” territory and the distorsion is so great that the instruments and vocals jumble into a messy cacophony, I can’t help but wish they’d take it easy on the volume and focus more on the music. Nonetheless, Manson’s set was phenomenal, and he really went all out to put on a killer show, cavorting, twisting, and crawling all over the stage, changing clothing between just about every song, making ample use of weird props (a giant chair, a platform that was raised some 40 feet above the stage, a makeshift pulpit, etc.), and whipping the crowd up into an hour-long, “you had to be there to believe it” frenzy. I managed to get a video recording of “Heart-Shaped Glasses” – again, please excuse the shoddy video/sound quality:

And now that you've had a chance to see both bands, please take the time to cast your vote in the "Who rocks harder?" poll in the right column of this page. (Man, I love Blogger gadgets.)

All in all, it was one of the best rock concerts I’ve ever attended, and it reminded me of my “glory days” as a teenage headbanger. Midlife crisis be damned, I think I’m going to scrounge up some money and continue the concert revival – Evanescence and Korn next month, baby!

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