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PHOTOS: The metal tour of the year

By Tony Contini

Editor’s Note: This story contains explicit language.

The reunion of metal fans was held at Reno Events Center on Tuesday when a sea of black t-shirts lined up to see heavy-hitters Megadeth, Lamb Of God, Trivium and Hatebreed.

Reno showed up early and Hatebreed started at six on the dot.

“We’ve been trying to tour with Megadeth for 26 years,” Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta said. “So this is un-fucking-believable.”

The metalcore outfit from Connecticut owns a space that is hardcore and yet uplifting. Most songs are about finding your inner strength, fighting demons and becoming better.

Jasta said it’s not officially a hardcore show until they saw a circle pit and crowd obliged. I’m sure everyone in it was thinking no security would brave the pit, because there wasn’t a mask in sight.

Throughout the evening, the bands and crowd shared the sentiment of it being way too long for reasons that don’t need reexplaining.

“Anybody want to come out of moshpit retirement tonight?” Jasta asked.

Hatebreed wrapped up their set with “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” and “I Will Be Heard.”

“Now is the time for me to rise to my feet
Wipe your spit from my face
Wipe these tears from my eyes.”

Hatebreed – “I Will Be Heard”

It was at that moment I realized why I kept almost tearing up at a goddamn metal show (something I’ve never done before, after thousands of concerts). It’s because concerts are my church. I’ve been addicted to shows my entire life. From security at Lawlor Events Center to photography, journalism and filmmaking, it’s always been about music and shows. And I had gone too long without my savior.

Trivium has a precise, melodic and articulate style of metal. Frontman Matt Heafy is a ball of energy, often sticking his tongue out in pure elation.

He pitted the crowd against Denver, Colorado, saying they were the best so far, in a silly tone denoting any town should be better than Denver.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if tomorrow in California we say Reno was the best crowd?” Heafy asked.

I hope they do.

“We don’t need quietness or politeness,” Heafy said. “Tonight is a metal show. Everyone scream whatever fucking word you wanna scream!”

The crowd at the metal show of the year Aug. 31, 2021 in Reno, Nev. Image: Tony Contini / This Is Reno

Heafy thanked the other three bands on the bill and said Trivium wouldn’t exist without them.

“I was 13 listening to ‘Tornado of Souls,’” Heafy said. “This means so much.”

The show was running like clockwork.

“We’ve returned to Reno, Nevada for one reason and one reason only,” Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe said. “To completely fuck this place up.”

They did just that. Once the pyrotechnic show started behind Blythe, it was hard to believe metal god Dave Mustaine and company were still upcoming.

Spires of fire shot into the air during “Walk With Me In Hell” and Blythe appeared to be performing amid a hellscape.

Lamb of God hails from Richmond, Virginia and hasn’t toured with Megadeth in 16 years.

“This next band’s singer just kicked cancer right in its balls,” Blythe said. “You know who I’m talking about.”

In the ocean of black T’s I saw one Metallica shirt. What kind of troll wears a Metallica shirt to a Megadeth show?

I saw one hilarious shirt with Metallica’s debut album art that read “Mustaine – Wrote Em’ All.”

Megadeth came out swinging, starting with “Hangar 18” and “Sweating Bullets.” Mustaine’s singing and guitar work was as sharp as ever.

On top of the countless great tunes, Mustaine’s staying power comes from being both James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett at the same time. He plays innovative thrash licks while singing then dives straight into intricate solos, all under a mane of golden locks.

Megadeth's Dave Mustaine performs Aug. 31, 2021 at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nev.
Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine’s singing and guitar work was as sharp as ever when the band performed Aug. 31, 2021 at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nev. Image: Tony Contini / This Is Reno

You know when you’ve seen too many shows when you start guessing what’s next. It might be because I listened to Cryptic Writing before the show, but when everyone left except drummer Dirk Verbeuren (from Swedish melodic death metal band Soilwork), I knew “Trust” was up next.

Megadeth thrashed through fan favorites “Symphony of Destruction” and“Tornado of Souls.”

I have a fond memory of the former. My AP English teacher during my senior year walked into class with an acoustic guitar and handed it to me and said only, “You’ll know what to do.” He started reciting lyrics, and I, sure enough, did know what to do. He then taught a lesson about something I forgot using the song as an example.

During the shouting portion of “Tornado of Souls” I pushed my unrehearsed show scream a little too far and remembered seeing Megadeth at the Grand Sierra Resort in high school and completely losing my voice. Then sharing the hoarseness the next day as a badge of honor.

Megadeth’s mascot Vic Rattlehead came out during “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” and hung on Mustaine as he rocked out.

During a song break, Mustaine pumped up the crowd for a good five minutes. “I love doing that,” Mustaine said. “When I do that at home, my dog looks at me like, ‘wtf’.”

He waited for the crowd to calm down so he could get serious for a moment. Mustaine talked about the pandemic and that he feels for anyone who has been affected.

For someone who is usually “Addicted To Chaos,” it was comforting to not hear any conspiracy theories, no talk of government overreach, just concern for his fellow man.

Mustaine shared a story about a close friend that recently fell into a coma after contracting COVID-19. He got the call that day saying he was more responsive. He dedicated the final song of the evening, “Holy Wars,” to that friend, and asked the crowd to sing along.

“We are going to get through this,” Mustaine said. “We are much better than this.”

Mustaine’s final words were, “God bless you, Reno” before his slogan “You’ve been great – We’ve been Megadeth… Goodnight!”

We can sleep soundly knowing we are in the God of Metal’s blessing.

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