Anthrax kicked off the show, and I was very pleasantly surprised with their set. Joey Belladonna is back as their singer, and has a very energetic stage presence. He's the only singer not tethered to an instrument, so he was free to roam all across the expansive stage. The band played a hits packed song list, including “Caught In A Mosh,” “Antisocial” and a rendition of Sabbath's “Heaven And Hell” in tribute to Ronnie James Dio.
When Megadeth hit the stage, the rain came pouring down, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd. It's great to see bassist Dave Ellefson back in the band, as his chemistry with Dave Mustaine is evident. They put on a no frills show, letting the songs do the talking. Mustaine and Chris Broderick are outstanding guitarists, and Megadeth's musicianship is better than ever.
It wasn't raining blood, but the fans were still getting wet when Slayer played. After neck surgery Tom Araya isn't headbanging anymore, but otherwise he looks and sounds great. Their dual guitar attack of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman is razor sharp, as they blazed through favorites like “Mandatory Suicide” and “South Of Heaven.”
Having four drummers was cool, with Lars Ulrich behind the kit and the others having standup snare drums. Everybody looked like they were having a blast, and all bands were represented, although Slayer was missing a couple of people. Everybody hugged both before and after the song, and it was definitely the defining moment of the night.
In addition to the concert, there's also a 45 minute behind the scenes documentary. It's worth watching as it follows the various bands around the venue before, during and after their sets. You can tell everybody was genuinely excited and honored to be part of this event. Hopefully we'll be able to see this in North America in the near future, but The Big 4: Live From Sofia, Bulgaria is mandatory viewing for thrash fans.
(released November 2, 2010 by Warner Brothers Records)