Friday , February 23 2024
The Big 4 proved they still were.

Concert Review: The Big 4 (Metallica/Slayer/Megadeth/Anthrax) – Indio, CA – 4/23/11

This year at the Empire Polo Grounds of Indio, California, between the modern music weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the country music weekend of the Stagecoach Festival, concert promoters Goldenvoice made history by putting on the first U.S. concert appearance of the Big 4 (of thrash metal) on the same stage. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax have played in various smaller combinations throughout the years. Last year, the Big 4’s first historic appearance took place at the Sonisphere Festival in Poland on June 16, 2010. They continued at other Sonisphere dates in Europe, but that didn’t diminish how special the event was to the tens of thousands who experienced it in the California desert.

Metal fans are frequently saddled with the stereotype of being dimwits like Beavis and Butthead, but anyone who has invested a little time learning about the genre knows that the songs aren’t just about anger or the devil. Literature is a frequent subject of inspiration as evidenced by Iron Maiden’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem and Mastadon’s Levithan based on Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick. Yet, the stereotypical fan is the first one to make an impression when a young man busted the parking ticket dispenser by jamming a credit card in the slot the ticket came out. Not sure if the cause was partying too early, but it caused everyone else to pay higher parking rates because we had to pay as if we lost our tickets.

A shuttle service was accessible through the event site, and it was a great value at $56 round trip from Anaheim, but there were some issues. Time was wasted as people had to check in to twice, first to get on the bus and then once on the bus. We sat around for a while after the first bus left leaving after 12:30 when we were supposed to depart by noon. Once on the crowded freeway, the driver wouldn’t use the carpool lane. Considering we had about 50 people on the bus, it seemed like we were eligible. After a few shouts of “Carpool,” he finally moved into it, but with traffic on the freeway and on the surface streets, we got off the bus as Anthrax began their four o’clock set.

Lead singer Joey Belladonna fronted Anthrax, currently his third time in that role. Their ten-song set was heavy with classic songs from his first stint in the band, but they also offered up the new ” Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” and it went over well. They were tight, hitting the crowd fast and hard. Not sure if it has anything to do with being the only band not from California, but New York’s Anthrax has a personality and sound different from the rest of the Big 4. They seem like a little brother, not meant in a condescending way, but where the other bands come off very serious, Anthrax has a playfulness and humor that comes through in their music. They also have a faint hint of funk, which is likely why they worked so well with Public Enemy.

Megadeth was next up and delivered a 12-song set that spanned their career during the hour they had. Rather unfortunate that the anti-war material written in the late ’80s was so timely, but that will likely always be the case. Lead singer Dave Mustaine vocals suffered from sound problems that were eventually worked out. While enjoyable and featuring more intricate guitar work, Megadeth didn’t have the same energy as Anthrax and by the time the next band took the stage, they would be the fourth best band of the day.

Slayer hit the stage and even the sun appeared slightly scared as it sank behind the mountains. They were the hardest and most relentless band of the day. Dave Lombardo’s double bass drums were thunderous, not so much supporting but propelling the music as Kerry King delivered frequent guitar-shredding solos. Tom Araya’s bass marched along as he sang some of the darkest songs of the day like “Dead Skin Mask,” recalling The Silence of the Lambs. They played a new song “America” (sp?) that fit right alongside the classics. As he has been since February, Gary Holt of Exodus sat in for guitarist Jeff Hanneman who is suffering from necrotizing fasciitis in his arm. To the crowd’s great delight, Hanneman appeared and played during the last two songs of the set, “South of Heaven” and “Angel of Death”.

The crowd grew restless waiting for headliner Metallica. A low-flying chopper was spotted and landed nearby. Then a clip from Serio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly played on the video screens. Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” blared as Tuco (Eli Wallach) ran around a graveyard.

They opened with “Creeping Death”. James Hetfield led the chant of “Die, die” on the chorus and crowd responded at great volume like orc fighters ready for battle in The Lord of the Rings. A four-year-old girl sat on her young father’s shoulders and a cross of confusion and fright could be seen in her eyes. No doubt if the memory remains she’ll have nightmares.

Robert Trujillo went to the upper tier of the stage set-up and squatted as if bracing himself as he thumped out the heavy bassline to “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” “Fuel” was accompanied by great blasts of fire that could be felt by those near the stage. After the instrumental “Orion,” Hetfield mentioned the late Cliff Burton. “One” was proceeded by a bit of stage theatrics of sounds and explosions reminiscent of a war zone.

After an extended break at the end of their set, all four bands appeared on stage together for a cover of Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” Hugs were shared as everyone took the stage and the camaraderie seemed genuine at a distance. Although the crowded wanted more in this vein, the other bands left so Metallica could close out with a one-two punch of “Hit the Lights” and “Seek and Destroy” from their debut Kill ‘Em All.

As headliner, Metallica’s set was about twice as long as everyone else’s and with all the effects like fireworks was more of a show, but there’s no denying they’ve had the greatest success of their peers. They can play hard and fast like everyone else on the bill, but their songs also demonstrate melody and introspection on gentler songs like “Fade to Black” and “Nothing Else Matters” that has widen their base of admirers.

The Big 4 concert appeared to be a rousing success, so it should lead to other dates across the country. Keep your devil horns crossed.

Anthrax setlist:
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
Among the Living
Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t
Metal Thrashing Mad
I Am the Law

Megadeth setlist:
In My Darkest Hour
Hangar 18
Wake Up Dead
Poison Was the Cure
Sweating Bullets
A Tout Le Monde
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

Slayer setlist:
World Painted Blood
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Dead Skin Mask
Silent Scream
The Antichrist
Seasons in the Abyss
South of Heaven
Angel of Death

Metallica setlist:
Creeping Death
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ride the Lightning
Fade to Black
All Nightmare Long
Sad But True
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Master of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman

Am I Evil? (w/ The Big 4)
Hit the Lights
Seek and Destroy

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Founder and Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at

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