“I just might die!” I yelled at Paul. Slayer were about to take the stage and the throng of people had started pushing forward. Luckily Paul and I were in the second row, having a soft squishy body between us and the hard metal barrier. No bruised ribs for us tomorrow.
“Couldn’t think of a better way to go!” was Paul’s reply, just as the black curtain covering the stage came down in time to the intro light show and music kicking off. The push of a thousand people behind us began. This push intensified when the band walked on stage, one by one until Slayer was present. With the deafening roar of Repentless it was clear – Slayer had arrived and the Slayer Army had risen to meet them.
It was a few months prior and Ozzy Osbourne had announced his No More Tours final tour. AND he was bringing Judas Priest to boot. Being his final tour, I was super eager to go, to see the prince of darkness for the first and last time. I procured tickets almost immediately! Then Slayer announced their farewell tour for the day before. And they were bringing Anthrax! In one
weekend, the pioneers, the founding fathers, the visionaries of thrash, metal and hard rock would be able to be seen live! This was to good to be true! Friday night would be Slayer and Anthrax – thrash metal to the core. Saturday would be Judas Priest – the inventers of the black leather, studs, spikes and motorbikes metal atheistic. Along with the man himself-Ozzy Osbourne!
Unfortunately, Ozzy had to cancel due to a recent health scare, which allowed Priest to take up the mantle of headliners. It is a pity for sure, but health comes first. And the world is not quite ready to say goodbye to Ozzy. I am hopeful that once he is better he’ll reschedule and I’ll get the chance to see him perform.
I arrived in Auckland around lunch time and had a few hours to kill before I could check into the AirBnB. So off to the CBD I headed to try track down some lunch. Arriving in town I was greeted by the sight of thousands of school kids. Clearly, and disappointingly, not here for either Slayer or Priest, they were taking part in the global climate change march. It fills me with so much hope for the future that we have a generation coming through that will not accept the excuses of our politicians on their lack of action.
So of course I joined in. Not in the marching part – that is for them to do. But the standing around and cheering part, showing my support for their cause. Once they took off down the street. I continued my hunt for lunch. Which lead me to experience the most mediocre sushi I have ever eaten. But afterwards, realizing I was now in the big smoke, I could probably find some fro-yo! Whites & Co was where I found some amazing mango frozen yogurt which tied me over till check in time.
One of the best things about Auckland, or any bigish city really, is Uber! We don’t have Uber in Napier, so going to a place that does is like a treat. Want to go to McDonalds but don’t want to leave the AirBnB – order Uber Eats. Want to get home after enjoying your friends company at the pub to vigorously – some very friendly man will arrive and drop you off and engage in some polite conversation along the way. I love Uber. And AirBnB. And the fact that I can practically organize my life from my iPhone. Right, Uber to the AirBnB then!
The AirBnB was a room in this rather large, colonial house, which hid its very modern interior quite well. Being a large Auckland property, this would be worth millions of dollars. I met the other guests who happened to work for Cirque de Soleil (https://www.aucklandnz.com/visit/events/whats-on/performing-arts/cirque-du-soleil-kooza) and proved to be very interesting guests to chat with when not out and about. I had less than an hour to put my stuff down, rest my back and freshen up before heading back out to the CBD to meet my then Twitter friend and now real life friend – Paul.
Paul and I met on Twitter, through the Windows Insider Programe and had many online interactions since. We conversed as old friends, supporting each other in our endeavors – both career and private – and this was before actually meeting face to face. Paul was gracious enough to take the time out of his day a while back to walk myself and the Napier Port’s IT team through SCCM and the modern management of Windows, and for that I owed him at least 2 beers! Now I got to see him in the flesh and we headed to The Bluestone Room for a beer or two before the Anthrax and Slayer gig later that night.
The Bluestone Room is a great pub, if you can find it, and I was lucky enough to have a guide. We got our beers and proceeded just like old friends, to have a right royal catch up. Two beers quickly vanished before it was time to find the busses that would carry us over Harbor Bridge and on to the North Shore and the Eventfinda Stadium, where our possible impending death lay in the form of Slayer live…
Heading to the bus, we were greeted by a very odd, and old, woman. She was going to the concert as well and was off at a million miles an hour – giving us her life story, along with the fact that she was disappointed her grandkid was not allowed to come. During the bus ride, in which I for some reason sat next to her, I learnt how she was able to talk to flies, mosquitos don’t listen and just need to be killed on sight, everything is energy – we are one with the universe and her grandkid was the biggest Slayer fan alive. While she was monologuing, those around us, who started off with excited chatter, slowly fell silent as she continued to talk, and I realized they were listening intently to the many weird and wonderful things now emanating from this woman. The bus ride was anything but uneventful.
We arrived at the venue and promptly got a lecture from the bus driver. Something along the lines of “don’t be late, I leave when I leave, and don’t cry if you miss the bus back”. Very welcoming. But I suppose you have to be a bit stern when dealing with an army of black clothed, long haired ruffians. As is custom, I got my concert shirts – the ones with the dates and venues – found Paul and we joined the line… Looking around at the very scary people making jokes, laughing with mates and getting excited, I started to feel a mixture of “I am going to die” and “This is going to be super awesome!”. Hey, I am a complicated man, alright. By this stage I had managed to lose Crazy Lady #1, and was not looking to befriend #2 just yet.
The doors opened and we were in. It had begun.
The waiting around that is. With about an hour before Anthrax were due on stage, Paul and I milled around, looking at the venue, the crowd and the impressive three-foot-3-pointed mohawk sported by a kid looking to be about 8. How it stayed up, or even how he kept his head up is a mystery to me. Suddenly, the stage and the floor went dark, and the Cowboys From Hell intro music gave way to Caught in a Mosh. The crowd went wild.
Being third from the front for Anthrax was a treat. Being on the right side of the stage, right in front of Scott Ian, was even better. These guys are all in their mid fifties and were shredding and tearing up the stage harder than some of the much younger bands I’ve seen. Anthrax played a full 3 songs before they stopped and changed guitar, and if you have ever seen how much energy each member puts into a live song, you’d realize what a feat that was. I was already starting to get out of breath and almost (almost) envied the guys in the seats. But Anthrax would not relent. After Madhouse and their brief guitar switch and crowd interaction (“Helllooooo Auckland New Zealand!) , they were off again with I Am The Law. Again, three songs non stop, and then more crowd interaction and guitar changes. I thought the crowd could not get any more rowdy than it was at this moment, but when Antisocial started up, the circle of death got even bigger. And for their last song – Indians – the entire crowd sang along. It was a great end to a great show. Watching Anthrax live, watching these guys that are a part of The Big Four, do their thing with such confidence was incredible. I was an Anthrax fan before, and now I have even more respect for what they do. I am thankful for the crowd control guys who were armed with water bottles and hose things that allowed them to squirt water at my face with some even going into my mouth. Top notch job guys!
After watching Anthrax live, I would very much love to see them headline a show. Give them more than nine songs, make them the main act and just let them lose. I have a feeling they will still be jumping about and shredding long after I have gone looking for a seat. If you ever get to see them, do. You will not regret it.
Anthrax left the stage and I was left with one of Scott Ian’s picks! Something that will live next to my concert tees for the rest of my days. Ears ringing, slightly damp, and starting to feel a little tired, it was still twenty minutes to go before Slayer took the stage. People were already getting in position and the push for the front started – elbows and all. Some opportunistic guys even said “You don’t want to see Slayer, let us go in front. Come one, my friend is dying.” But holding fast, I was soon sandwiched between two rather large men. Shoulder to shoulder we stood, and I was not in a state to be going anywhere. I could lift my feet up and wouldn’t budge. It became clear to me that I was now at the mercy of the crowd. It was at this stage, I could see Paul on the other side of the large man to my left and yelled “We’re going to die!’
Due to my excellent positioning, I was right in front of Kerry King. Kerry Freaking King! The man. The legend himself! With his signature chains hanging off his belt, he was an absolute blast to watch. Slayer bought it all – flames, pentagrams, Kerry King. They were here, and the crowd were loving it. I don’t think I have ever been so scared in a mosh pit in my entire life. Nor so sweaty. Slayer played 20 songs all up, and had only the briefest of pauses when changing guitars. Tom Araya – the lead singer – didn’t jump around as much as Joey Belladonna from Anthrax, nor could he, sporting his impressive bass guitar. Trying to describe Slayer’s energy is like trying to describe a prison riot. Extreme chaos with some fun thrown in. For twenty songs, Slayer pummeled my ear drums, while the crowd pummeled my body. And I would not have chosen it any other way. It was intense!
I thought the crowd would be getting tired, and would relent at some point, but then Slayer pulled out South of Heaven, Raining in Blood, Chemical Warfare and their final song Angel of Death. If you could convert the pure energy of these four songs alone, you could probably power the whole western civilization. It was mental! And by then I didn’t care about the bruised ribs, the broken ears, the squashed feet. It was perfect. And it was the best send off a band could have ever done. To have seen two of The Big Four in one night, to be that close to those legends in the metal scene – that is something I will remember forever. I hope everyone gets to experience something similar in their life.
Now on that night, the news was still trickling in, but New Zealand suffered a terrorist attack by some numpty in Christchurch, and while we were getting treated to the best the thrash world had to offer, others were coming to terms with the aftermath. I don’t know if Tom was told about it before they came on stage, or after their last song. But this news, in conjunction with Slayer saying farewell to their fans, to their life, to Slayer itself, makes what Tom Araya did even more impressive. After each of the members had done their stage walk, throwing picks and drumsticks into the crowd, after Kerry Freaking King did his absolutely awesome power pose, after the stage was empty, Tom came out. Just him. No one else. He started in the center at the edge of the stage, and just looked at the crowd. Fans, people, all screaming his name, his bands name, and his friends names. He moved to the left corner of the stage, and just stood there. Again, taking it all in. Saying nothing. Just standing and watching. He then moved to the right of the stage and did the same thing. He looked at these people who looked back at him with love, respect, awe and all the other emotions that come with being a fan. Tom then moved to the center behind the mic that had just taken hours of vocal abuse. And stood there for a bit. Again, just looking at the crowd. Looking at his fans, looking at what his band had built up after 38 years, this was his goodbye and the crowd could feel the emotional weight of it.
“There is nothing more I can give you, but my thanks.”
And with that, Slayer left the stage in Auckland, New Zealand for the last time. Slayer would go on to cancel their Christchurch show in the light of the unfolding events.
Slayer was a band I never, ever thought I’d get to see live. They were ones that I would always watch from afar, like many others. To have been there. To see them practice their art in real life. That is a dream come true. Not only for me, but for everyone else who have grown up with this band for far longer than I have been alive. I am not ashamed to admit it, but after seeing them, watching Tom say his goodbyes, and even remembering it, I got a little teary eyed. And still do. It’s the feeling of an experience that is way bigger than yourself, and all you can be is grateful to have been a small part of it, to have been there.
After I had gathered my thoughts, emotions and wits, Paul and I headed into town. To the Ding Dong Lounge in Auckland and continue chatting. This place reminds me of my old stomping grounds – Burn/The Red Door. It’s a dingy hole in the wall metal bar, and its perfect. I highly recommend a visit if that’s your thing. It felt like home, and it was the best way to end the first part of this weekend.
Part 2 is coming soon. It covers Halestorm and Judas Priest.