Live: Megadeth Keep It Muted At The Theater At Madison Square Garden


Gigantour: Megadeth, Motörhead, Lacuna Coil, Volbeat
The Theater At Madison Square Garden
Saturday, January 28

Better than: The World Needs a Hero in its entirety tour.

Dave Mustaine has spent the better part of this young decade on a mission to restore his image. He’s put out a bestselling autobiography; he brought longtime bassist Dave Ellefson back into Megadeth to tour their thrash masterpiece Rust in Peace in its glorious entirety; he swallowed his pride enough to play five songs with Metallica at their final 30th anniversary show. So despite his constant snarl and “everyone hates me” attitude, it seems like he’s settled into his place in the world. But if he decides to use that place to put on whisper-quiet headlining sets that last barely an hour, he may want to re-evaluate things.

To get a real taste of Mustaine’s attitude—regardless of his recent public rehabilitation—just take note of the performance style he imposes on his band. The level of choreography involved (“OK, lead guitarist and bassist, swap sides of the stage now”), and making sure everyone stays the hell off the stage until he’s done with his monologues should be sufficient indicators. He brought his daughter out to wish her a happy 14th birthday by playing a ditty that was remarkable for its S.O.D.-like levels of brevity and incoherence.

Saturday’s show at the Theater at Madison Square Garden was part of the fourth American incarnation of Megadeth’s Gigantour, a smaller-scale version of Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest and Metallica’s Summer Sanitarium festivals. On the most recent version of the tour, in 2008, Megadeth powered through 17 songs on a five-band bill; this time they only offered 12, and played with three opening acts. Legendary noisemasters Motörhead provided a delightfully raucous opening set, delivering highlights like “Damage Case” and “Overkill” while frontman Lemmy Kilmister gave one of his trademark effortlessly badass performances. But at this point, Motörhead gigs have become more rites of passages for metalheads instead of singular events in themselves.

Maybe Megadeth spoiled its audience by giving in and putting on those Rust In Peace shows two years ago. As soon as they opened their set with “Trust,” a mid-tempo alt-rocking track from 1997, the guy behind me groaned, “Oh my god, that’s too mellow, come on!” Not that every song had to be a total rager—the hilariously melodramatic “Sweating Bullets” (“Hello, me, meet the real me!”) was a crowd favorite—but the set suffered from a lack of momentum (that was only emphasized by a pocket of three new songs smack-dab in the middle of the set) and wasn’t done any favors by Mustaine’s complete lack of control over his upper vocal register.

I can’t think of any shows I’ve ever attended where so many strangers approached me after the show in search of affirmation, asking, “Dude, what the hell was that? Did that suck, or was it just me?” These were members of the same crowd that chanted the phrase “Turn it up!” during the headliner’s entire set—which began crazy early and yet excised songs from previous performances on the same tour—and it was not difficult to understand their frustration. (Seriously, no self-respecting metal show ends before 10:30.)

Critical bias: I’ve been a Dave Mustaine apologist since 2009’s vicious and searing Endgame, but his free pass has expired.

Overheard: “Skrillex… he’s an Eminem kind of guy.”—Dudes behind me discussing the Bamboozle lineup.

Random notebook dump: I can’t wait for Owen Wilson to play Dave Ellefson in the Megadeth biopic. Maybe the ginger-ish dude from Workaholics with all the hair could play Mustaine.

Set list:
Wake Up Dead
Hangar 18
Sweating Bullets
Angry Again
Public Enemy No. 1
Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)
Guns, Drugs & Money
A Tout Le Monde (with Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil)
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells

Holy Wars… The Punishment Due