Slayer in Asheville

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Long time fans of entreaty.net will know that last year I reviewed Slayer’s last tour when it stopped in Atlanta. Well surprise! They announced another “leg” of that tour. I’m not sure what the difference between a leg of a tour and a separate tour is but whatever. They’ve said this is the last leg of the last tour. That leg began last night in Asheville and a lot of the selling point for me to go see them for the last time again was the bands they had with them Primus and Ministry. Those are two bands I’ve never seen which both have songs I really like but I don’t know if I like them enough to go see them on their own, so perfect for openers.

I monitored the ticket situation online for a while and finally bought one the day of the show for a bit below the hefty face value. Similar to the first time I saw Slayer for the last time traffic delayed me getting to the venue even though I thought I had planned ahead for that.

I arrived a few songs already into the set of problematic former Pantera/Down/Superjoint Ritual singer Phil Anselmo’s set of Pantera songs. It’s always been apparent that Phil is a pretty sketchy guy, see the Pantera song Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills for one particularly unsubtle example, but a few years ago he hit a low point, screaming “white power” during a set by Down. He tried to explain this away in what sounds like a rejected Chapelle’s Show skit idea by saying it was an inside joke to his bandmates about the white wine he’d been drinking backstage. Down got dropped from several festivals and then the supergroup’s members quietly went back to their main bands. Apparently enough time has passed for everyone to be cool with that since Phil opened this tour to an absolutely packed arena.

Of course Phil is one of, if not the greatest, metal singers of all time too. Adding his vocals to Dimebag Darrell Abbott’s monster riffs made Pantera the most beloved metal band in the 90s. He still sounded the part even though he doesn’t hulk around the stage as he once did, now he sings using a mic stand at center stage. In light of his racism and the fact that two Pantera bandmates are now dead, it was a weird experience. I’ve listened to those songs for about 20 years now so it’s hard not to get into them hearing them live with Phil’s vocals but also knowing everything, not easy to be super into it. I still bought a ticket and watched so I’m as complicit as anyone there. My first ever concert was Ozzfest 2000, headlined by Pantera, this clearly wasn’t as good as that by a long shot but still I heard Becoming, Strength Through Strength, Fucking Hostile, Walk, Goddamn Electric and more as close as anyone is going to get to hearing Pantera doing them anymore.

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Next up was Ministry doing a set of all old material. They only got about 30 minuets but I heard all the Ministry songs I know, Just One Fix, Stigmata, Jesus Built My Hot Rod, and my favorite N.W.O. There seemed to be a backing track so I’m not sure how much was actually live but it was still an enjoyable performance. Listening to Ministry I still get the feeling that there is no way a normal person would like it but I do, something Slayer doesn’t even necessarily have anymore. I like that feeling and I think it’s a good sign that a band is on the right track. I know, that’s a super hot take considering these songs were from the 80s and early 90s.

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Next up was Primus, they got about 45 minuets but did not play every song of their’s I know. We did hear My Name is Mud and Jerry Was a Race Car Driver. I suppose their most famous song is actually the South Park theme song but I wasn’t expecting to hear that, I wouldn’t have minded getting John the Fisherman though. Their set was entertaining regardless, they are a truly unique band that is obviously very talented. I’m glad Slayer gave me the chance to check them out for a bit. They did leave without saying anything and did no encore so it was a bit weird for awhile because no one knew if they were done or not.

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And last of course was Slayer. They played almost exactly an hour and a half. I feel like they used to play much longer than that. My favorite time seeing them was a lengthy set only about three years ago where they started their set with a worrying large number of new songs before just going and going with the older classics. (I did see the original line up once but it was at another Ozzfest and they didn’t get to play as long so that can’t be my favorite.) Maybe my memory is faulty or rose colored but I feel like they played longer the last time I saw them play for the last time last year. It also seemed like maybe the Reign in Blood songs were a bit slower? The guys are getting older and I’m sure it’s incredibly difficult to play that material no matter your age so I’m not complaining. Who could complain about getting to hear some of the all time best metal songs live? Well a group of people sitting near me thought it was a good idea to leave while South of Heaven played and then missed the last four songs Show No Mercy, Raining Blood, Dead Skin Mask, and Angel of Death, because I mean, ho hum, who wants to see that when you can beat traffic or get to the bar early, what the fuck? I, for one, enjoyed them reeling off that five to end it, even though I was disappointed when Angel of Death began because I knew that would be it. Much like last time in Atlanta after they were done Tom Araya stood on stage taking in the crowd to himself, only this time he did it for much longer it seemed. He stepped over to the side and it truly looked like he was scanning the crowd trying to look at every individual face he could. Even if this is a gimmick he always does, it’s a cool one, but I actually think it he was trying to see the fans. They’ve stuck with him for decades and let him live his dreams. I’m sure he will miss it. The last thing he did was go to the mic and simply say “thank you” twice and then that was it. Likely the last time I’ll see Slayer for the last time.

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