Live: The Big 4 Go To Bat For Metal At Yankee Stadium

River Avenue, 3:45 p.m. Most of the Anthrax shirt-wearers were inside by this point.

The Big 4: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax
Yankee Stadium
Wednesday, September 14

Better than: "Nationals beat the Mets, 2-0. WP: Brad Peacock (1-0), LP: Mike Pelfrey (7-12)"

Truth be told, the crowd at Yankee Stadium last night didn't look all that different than a crowd at a Major League Baseball game normally might—lots of dudes in logo-ed t-shirts and caps, drinking beer, cheering lustily for the goings-on down below. There were also a few scattered chants about the suckiness of Boston and the Mets, just for good measure.

But the reason for the 41,000 people in attendance wasn't a late-season tilt between the Yankees and its American League also-rans; instead, they were united under the banners of loud guitars and pummeling drums, of alienation and anger. The Big 4—Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax, four titans of thrash who had seen both triumph and tragedy over the past 30 years—shared a bill for what was said to be the east coast's biggest metal show.

The day started early, with Anthrax taking the stage at precisely 4 p.m.; "It's a beautiful day for metal," frontman Joey Belladonna said early in his band's set, and indeed it was, with just enough of a breeze to counteract the sunlight-borne heat. The early hour meant that the stadium wasn't teeming from the get-go, but the general-admission crowd was large enough that people were allowed to, if you pardon the borrowing of a term, get caught in a mosh at four discrete places in in the outfield. Anthrax's spiky, booming set seemed almost too short, especially since this was something of a homecoming for them (at one point an Anthrax banner borrowing the Yankees logo was unfurled and placed over an amp); their lumbering basslines and overwhelming enthusiasm, though, made up for the short time they spent on stage.

Up next was Megadeth, the paranoid, twitchy thrash act that spun off when lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine was booted from Metallica years ago. Mustaine had been staving off neck surgery in order to make the evening—earlier in the week there had been rumors that Megadeth wouldn't even play Yankee Stadium and would cede their spot on the bill to Exodus—and he seemed somewhat subdued, although he still managed to get off a few grumbled bits of deadpan in between the band's solo-stuffed, yet taut compositions. ("It is about taking someone's head and sticking it in a vice and crushing it. So the obvious title is 'Headcrusher.'") Megadeth's muscular thrash got a bit swallowed by the stadium's cavernous acoustics, but the iconic bassline of "Peace Sells" still managed to slice through the venue, and its anomic lyrics were sneered right back at Mustaine by a crowd that was more than happy to come together in their dissatisfaction.

During the coda of the set-closing "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due," a fan leapt the barricades and ran across the baseball diamond (which had been fenced off, so as not to give the Yankee Stadium groundskeeping crew too much extra work to do while preparing for the home team's Monday return), and the crowd near me erupted; he was quickly apprehended by police and was marched off the field in handcuffs. (If only he'd tried to pull that stunt when Anthrax had played "I Am The Law.")

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