I can’t think of a better follow-up to my post about Megadeth’s new album, Dystopia, than to talk about my experience watching them live at a recent Boston show. The music and the showmanship were all great, but the highlight of the night was when I got a picture with the band as part of a VIP package they offered.
Soon after the release of Dystopia, Megadeth embarked on a North American tour and they also have a lot of shows lined up in Europe and South America. I saw them as part of the North American tour on March 21st, with opening bands Havok, Children of Bodom, and Suicidal Tendencies. This was my 4th time seeing them but because they’re my favorite metal band, there’s always excitement. There’s always an element of joy about the prospect of singing every lyric to every song at the top of my lungs. That’s what you do at your favorite band’s show! I’ve also seen them with a slightly different line-up every time. Now, that’s not always a good thing for a band’s career, but I gotta admit, for me it brought an element of surprise every time and I got to hear a different take from a different drummer or lead guitarist.
I bought my ticket pretty much when it first became available for the public but there was one question I had to answer before. Was I going to go for the VIP package again? A lot of bands do this sort of thing with various different features, but a VIP package at a Megadeth concert got you a few signed items, as well as the perk of going into the venue before everybody else. The main draw, however, was the photo opportunity. It didn’t mean you were going to hang out with the band by any means, but the photo op for a fan was still a big deal. I’d met Megadeth at various meet and greets before but I’d never had a picture with the band.
I tried the VIP package in December 2013 when the band played the same venue. I got in line, got my picture with the band, enjoyed the show, and started waiting for the photo to be posted online. A day later, I got a call from the company who organized this meet and greet. When the representative introduced herself, I thought they were calling me for a customer satisfaction survey or something like that. Turns out I was being naïve. She was calling me to tell me that there was a problem with the photos taken in Boston and they weren’t showing up on their computers. Basically, she was telling me that I was never going to see the photo that I’d paid good money for. I was pissed. I couldn’t understand how they didn’t know what happened to all those digital pictures when 5 year-old kids these days can fully operate smart phones. Second, their apology was even worse. Instead of refunding all my money, they offered the same photo opportunity if I caught the band on a different show on that same tour, completely ignoring the fact that I still had to pay for my plane ticket and I had to figure out how to take time off from work to make that happen in the first place. After the call, I wrote the company an email and I gave them all of my negative feedback in all of its detail. In the end, I got the full refund that I deserved. But there still was no picture with Megadeth. Fast forward to 2016 – the question was obvious. Would the same disappointment happen again?
I decided to purchase the VIP package again thinking lightning wouldn’t strike twice. Fortunately, it didn’t. (see picture at the top of the page). Once the ticket was purchased, I started waiting in anticipation. Listening to Dystopia, and knowing I’d
hear some of those songs live also got me ecstatic.
When I got to the House of Blues in Boston, I first got in line for the meet and greet. The HOB staff opened the doors for us around 4:30 and everyone who had purchased the VIP packages got inside and checked in. They told us we would get a signed poster and a few shot glasses after the show. That way we wouldn’t have to hold onto them while standing in a crowded venue with thousands of metal fans. We were told to get in line and wait for the band to arrive. It was the same exact process as last time.
Like I mentioned earlier, in this particular meet and greet, you got very little time with the band. So I didn’t have much time to talk to the guys, but I knew that beforehand. While I was waiting for my turn, I saw other fans getting their pictures taken. The band was courteous, shook everybody’s hand, posed with them for the photo and thanked them for coming to the show. Short and sweet. The same was true for me. I walked up to the guys and shook their hands and said “welcome back to Boston, guys”. Dave Mustaine sometimes gets a bad reputation for being difficult or whatever, but I must say, at all times I met him, he was always nice to me and to all the fans I could see around. Same experience here. After the picture was taken, I was told we were all set. I turned back to Dave. He said “Thanks, buddy. Enjoy the show.” And I said “Thanks so much, Dave” and had to go after that. I wish I could have spent more time with my musical heroes, especially with Dave. But I’m grateful that I finally have a picture as a memory to keep. If you look at the picture, you can see how ecstatic I was. Even if you didn’t know who was in Megadeth, you could easily spot the “fan” 😉 The band looks a little tired, but that’s understandable. They literally have to do this every night with more than a hundred people, right before they are to play a full set. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but Dave was actually very friendly. I’m sure he was happy that his band is still going strong and can draw so many fans to their shows.
After the meet and greet I went into the venue. Since we were admitted early, the place was fairly empty. So you could stand wherever you wanted and grab a good spot before everyone else came. I was originally planning to stand a little far back so I could focus on hearing the band and not be distracted by the mosh pits or crowd surfers. But when I got there I changed my mind. It was Megadeth after all! How could I not watch the show from the front-lines? That’s what I had done at the previous shows, so why not now? I was no stranger to being among hundreds of passionate metal fans, all trying to get a closer look at a band they loved. I wasn’t going to shy away now! And I stood my ground the entire time. I was not affected by mosh pits (there were some). The crowd surfers were annoying and ruined parts of the show for some people. But because I was vigilant (every time I saw the bouncers looking sort of concerned, I looked back, saw a crowd surfer coming, and got ready!) they didn’t bother me all that much either. As far as I’m concerned, it was definitely worth being super close to the stage.
One friendly advice to readers who don’t go to metal shows too often. Every show you go, be realistic about the likelihood of mosh pits and crowd surfing, as well as people pushing to get a closer spot. That’s just the way it goes. It’s metal, after all. If you don’t want any of that (which is completely okay – I don’t stay towards the front unless it’s Megadeth), then pick your spot accordingly. That way, there will be no surprises and everyone will have a good time.
This, by the way, was the first time that I tried ear plugs at a live show. I’m so glad I did! The particular one I bought had a high rating on Amazon, and it really worked wonders. Not only was there no ringing in my ears afterwards, I could actually hear every instrument a lot more clearly. Do your ears a favor and get some ear plugs, especially if you want to be close to the stage. I see more and more people using them and I’m glad I’m now one of them.
On to the show…
The first band that took the stage was Havok. They are a thrash metal band out of Denver. I knew that Dave’s son, Justis, was managing them but that’s about all I knew. I was completely blown away by their performance – they were really good! Their stuff reminds me of early Overkill and Exodus. But the main reason why I was genuinely impressed was the fact that their stage presence was impeccable. They were running around, they were headbanging, they were smiling while playing… The whole set, they made it feel like Havok had been around for 30 years. That’s how comfortable and confident they were playing their music to a crowd that mostly wasn’t there for them. It’s tough being an opener – but they nailed it!
Then came Children of Bodom… I know they’ve been around for a long time and they have a considerable following. Alexi Laiho, guitarist and vocalist of the band, is a remarkable guitar player in his own right. But I’ve just never been able to get into their music. It’s just not my thing. I was curious about their stage performance because sometimes even bands that you don’t normally like can put on a great show. It wasn’t the case here. There was barely any movement from any member of the band. Even Alexi himself didn’t really seem like he was having a good time. For a band of their stature, I was expecting a lot more.
But of course I was there mainly for Megadeth. They hit the stage around 9:30 p.m. and played until a little after 11:00. They opened with Hangar 18, which was surprising to me, I thought they were going to open with ‘The Threat Is Real’ based on some reviews I’d read earlier. They did play 5 Dystopia tunes and I was pleasantly surprised about that. Bands sometimes prefer to play the crowd pleasers that they know will work; but that doesn’t leave too much room for newer material. Megadeth, especially because of frequent line-up changes, did sometimes stick to well-known tunes. But this time, we got 5 new songs! And the incredible crowd reaction to all new releases was the perfect testament to how well-received this album is!
I think overall the band sounded the best I have heard them. I’m not saying it because this is the most recent I’ve seen them, but because I saw them reinvigorated and genuinely having a good time. Chris Adler was super enthusiastic the whole time and I love it when a performer is having as good a time playing as you do listening. No offense to Shawn Drover (the previous drummer) but I’ve always thought his stage presence lacked the energy that I’ve come to expect from Megadeth drummers. Adler, on the other hand, fits right in!
As for Kiko, from where I stood he was right in front of me most of the show and he kept the crowd energy going the whole time! His playing needs no review, I mean the guy nailed every single solo he played. Whether it was his solos from Dystopia or from a previous Megadeth album, it didn’t matter, he could easily handle it. I like his melodic approach to lead guitar playing and I think his musical background is contributing a lot to Megadeth’s new sound. He and Dave form a great guitarist duo and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them.
Dave’s guitar playing was top notch. I paid more attention to his solos because I love some of his lead work as much as I love the rhythm stuff, and his playing didn’t miss a beat the entire time! You can say whatever you want about Dave, but you can’t take away his guitar playing ability. When it comes to writing thrash metal songs built around intricate riffs, infused with melody and layered with lots of solos, no one does it better than him. Live shows remind everyone why he is revered as a guitar icon – he is always in control and always having a good time playing the music he created.
Dave mostly played his Dean VMNTs but also played a Dean Zero for a while. The guitar that was the most remarkable to me was the silver VMNT. The pictures don’t do it justice. That guitar looked spectacular under all those stage lights! I know he likes silver finishes in guitars (he had a few from Jackson with the same finish as well) and I can see why – they work so well on stage.
Tuning the guitars down to D Standard significantly improved Dave’s vocals and he sounded great throughout the entire set. I said this before and I’ll say it again – tuning the guitars one step down was one of the best decisions Megadeth made in the last few years. Vocal ranges can change as you get older, there’s nothing wrong with trying out a different tuning to fit a different vocal style. It works for Dave, it works for Megadeth. I see no issues, really.
For the full set list, check the link on Megadeth’s site. I was glad A Tout Le Monde was dropped. Great song, but a little overplayed. I would actually be okay if they dropped Trust, too, for the same reason.
They played 5 Rust in Peace songs, with Holy Wars…The Punishment Due being the absolute favorite as the closer. That album, which was originally released in 1990, is still worshipped by all metal fans! She-Wolf, from the Cryptic Writings album, made a comeback and that song just works better live than it does on the album. It just becomes something bigger on a live setting. 5 Dystopia songs, as I mentioned earlier, also went over really well with the crowd. And of course we all sang every lyric to other favorites like Wake Up Dead, Peace Sells, Sweating Bullets and Symphony of Destruction … I mean, how can you not? These have become classics for a reason!
All in all, if you have a chance to see them during this tour, do yourself a favor and do it. The band is having a great time, and so will you (“You’ve been great, we’ve been Megadeth”, as Mustaine would say). The band is back on playing heavier songs, their stage presence has been re-energized with two new amazing additions to the line-up, and their newest album is universally acclaimed as one of their best work.
I know I’m already looking forward to seeing them for the 5th time.