REVIEW: Slayer + Lamb of God + Behemoth at Madison Square Garden

We’re a little slow on the draw lately, but Slayer, Lamb of God Behemoth brought their massive tour to NYC’s Theater at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, July 27th, for a sold-out performance at a venue not exactly known for hosting metal shows. Yeah, it’s The Garden, but the arena itself is the big attraction while the theater often hosts artists that aren’t as massive as Slayer, who are members of “The Big Four” along with Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica, and that show likely could have played the arena itself if not for a residency by Phish – who thankfully had the night off and there was to be no mingling of metalheads and burnouts who were no doubt a 5 or 6 on the “crusty” scale.

But I digress. We’re not here to talk about Phish, we’re here to talk about three metal bands on one of the most whiplash-inducing tours of the summer. Behemonth kicked the whole thing off promptly at 7, and were surprisingly tame in terms of the number of crowd surfers – none that I noticed while shooting – and opened with Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer to start their 7-song set, and from there it would be Conquer All, Messe Noir, Alas Lord is Upon Me, Decade of Therion, Ov Fire and the Void and Chants for Eschaton 2000 to wrap up. Behemoth is certainly an interesting live act, and I really wish their lights were better after seeing so many great photos from previous shows on this run, but that obvious disappointment aside, they put on a good show.

Nergal of Behemoth! at Madison Square Garden

Up next was Lamb of God, who we were after to photograph and cover after all – bad lighting aside, totally not LoG’s fault – and that was awesome, mostly because I’m a fan of Randy Blythe’s work as a photographer, even more so than I am of his music. Truth be told, I wasn’t that big on Lamb of God before seeing them live, the appeal of this one was all about getting to photograph Randy, but LoG does metal well. So well that I got kicked in the back of the head by a crowd surfer inviting himself into my workspace, but that comes with the territory at shows like these and is one of the reasons I stopped doing them with a few exceptions.

Lamb of God got 3 more songs than Behemoth, which still wasn’t really enough. I was hoping to get to hear more from them, but with Slayer to follow it wasn’t much of a surprise, really. Kicking off with Laid to RestLoG’s set would send the crowd into a frenzy and put the mosh pit/crowd surfing into full force – I got kicked in the head during their set – and that would continue through Now You’ve Got Something to Die For and 512 before we vacated the pit after our 3 songs. Other tunes featured on the set were Ruin, Still Echoes and Redneck (okay, I do know a Lamb of God song!) to wrap up their time.

If you’re a fan of LoG, you already know what to expect, but actually seeing Randy Blythe fly through the air and jump off the drum riser was pretty cool. He’s definitely a showman and a blast on stage, and their set pretty well kicked ass. I don’t know if I’d do it again – I’m getting too old to be a crash test dummy – but they were awesome.\

Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe at Madison Square Garden

Finally, it was Slayer’s turn. I mentioned above that I would have liked for Lamb of God to have more time, but when Slayer ripped through 20 songs, it’s expected that they take up most of the slot. Yeah, 20 songs is a lot, and I’m gonna go backwards on this one because the closed with Angel of Death, the song that pissed off a lot of people due to its lyrics about the infamous Nazi physician Josef Mengele, which led to claims that the late Jeff Hanneman was a Nazi sympathizer. Of course, people get bent out of shape about everything and can largely sod off, this is metal and nobody cares about your opinion. The fans love it and that’s all that matters.

Slayer opened up fairly tame, compared to what their set would become later in the night, kicking off with Repentless before going into The Antichrist and following that up with Disicple before we were unceremoniously vanquished from the pit and relegated to watching the show with the commoners, aka the people who made bad ass shows like this possible in the first place – the fans who come out to see them. Some of the other numbers Slayer hit us in the face with were Hate WorldwideMandatory SuicideDead Skin MaskCast The First StoneRaining Blood (of course) and Chemical Warfare.

Slayer shows are inherently dangerous and even more bad ass, which I can say after finally having seen them live. After adding Slayer to the laundry list of bands I’ve seen since my first concert 10 years ago last week (Beastie Boys, RIP MCA), I can now say I’ve seen The Big Four in their entirety, with only Metallica left to cross off my photographic bucket list. Slayer’s been doing this forever, putting on stellar live shows, and the additions of Lamb of God and Behemoth only make this tour even more massive, and even better. All three acts are sensational live performers, and there’s no doubt this tour is one of the best of the summer.

Check out the Slayer photo gallery below:

Kerry King of Slayer shredding at Madison Square Garden