The last time your correspondent saw Slayer live it was in the Academy in Dublin three years ago and I might have lost half my body weight and much of my hearing. It was great.
That concert reminded me just why this band of gnarled Californians meant so much to the chisel-faced, teenage me. Last night it was the grander surroundings of the Marquee, and yet again time seemed to go into reverse as thunder and lightning, bang on cue, rattled overhead.
At a stuffed Marquee fans were treated to favourites such as ‘Die By The Sword’, ‘War Ensemble’ and ‘South of Heaven’, mixed in with new songs from Slayer’s 11th and current studio album, Repentless - proof that a band formed in 1981 are reluctant to become a mere nostalgia act.
Fellow thrash metal mob Anthrax had softened up the crowd nicely beforehand with back catalogue efforts such as ‘Anti Social’, guitarist Scott Ian’s bald pate a study in perpetual motion, but the atmosphere cranked up to 11 (thank you, Spinal Tap) when Slayer took the stage.
The sound was blistering, even in a large, cavernous venue. On drums Paul Bostaph continues to expertly fill the stool vacated by the legendary Dave Lombardo, while Paul Bostaph, drafted in when founder member Jeff Hanneman fell ill prior to his death in 2013, has cemented his place in a band in which bassist and vocalist Tom Araya and the inimitable Kerry King dominate, the elder statesmen of a musical genre they have come to define.
Alongside the riffs, there was moments of humour, guitars with neon trim, plastic beer glasses flying through the air, and from second song ‘Postmortem’ on, mass pogoing and crowd surfing. More than anything else, there was a sense of shared fun between band and crowd. Then towards the end, the big reveal: the stage backdrop changed to reveal a tribute to Hanneman, his name written in the style of a well-known beer.
The place erupted, the crowd revelling as it lapped up the delirious riff to ‘Reign In Blood’. As the tunes kept coming, all delivered with fire and precision, it was hard not to feel a kind of teenage giddiness. Shouldn’t I be getting a bit too old for this? Well, no. In a world increasingly shorn of musical tribes, the racket bouncing around inside this big tent seemed ageless.
In an interview on the band’s homepage, King reflected on the death of Hanneman, his friend, and on “how we hope we’ve done Slayer and him justice”. If tonight is anything to go by, the legacy is safe and well.
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