Tom Araya stood stoically near the edge of the stage as waves
of applause washed over him.
The Slayer bassist and his bandmates had just finished their
final New Jersey show on their current farewell tour. After the final crunch of
vicious set-closer “Angel of Death,” the thrash metal heroes took prolonged
bows and tossed guitar picks to eager fans. Eventually, only Araya was left on
He spent at least ten minutes slowly meandering from one side
of the amphitheater to the other, basking in the adulation of the crowd. Though he occasionally cracked a grin, Araya
stood mostly expressionless as he scanned the thousands of cheering supporters
providing a lengthy standing ovation. As much as the road has taken a physical
toll on Araya (the bassist has suffered hearing loss and endured back surgery
over the years), the decision to retire from touring can’t be an easy one.
As the crowd roared, Araya was likely storing the ovation in
his memory banks, to fondly recall during his retirement.
Barring the announcement of additional tour dates, the show
presumably marked the final local appearance for Slayer, who are calling it
quits after a career of nearly four decades. During that time, the band
redefined thrash metal and cemented a legacy as one of the finest heavy bands
of all time. And they did it all in uncompromising fashion, refusing to cater
to music trends and receiving little support from radio or the mainstream press.
While Slayer was undoubtedly the main attraction at the
BB&T Pavilion show, a
stone’s throw across the river from Philadelphia, attendees were treated to a slate full of top
Death metal veterans Cannibal Corpse led things off with a
brief set that included “Hammer Smashed Face,” its best-known song. Next, Amon Amarth impressed with a powerful display of its Viking-themed
bravado. Its stage featured a replica of the bow of a Viking ship, as singer
Johan Hegg stalked around on tunes like “Twilight of the Thunder God” and guzzled
from a drinking horn, toasting Slayer and the other bands on the bill.
Lamb of God opted for a sparser
production, but kept the energy high during a powerful set, as wiry front man
Randy Blythe bounced about like a jack-in-the-box, firing up the crowd during
songs such as “Walk With Me in Hell” and “Redneck.”
But as enjoyable as the openers might have been, the crowd
was really there for one reason: the mighty Slayer. Leading off with
“Repentless” backed by walls of flame shooting up from both sides of drummer
Paul Bostaph, Slayer immediately showed that they’re as good as ever. This
might be a farewell tour, but the band was not showing its age.
Guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt traded leads and
unleashed a barrage of sinister riffs during a 20-song set that included
favorites like “South of Heaven,” “Chemical Warfare,” “Hell Awaits,” and
The band barely paused in between songs, unleashing one
furious assault after another. Slayer’s inventive use of flame effects enhanced
the show in eye-popping manner, as the fire occasionally made crisscross
patterns or the shape of a cross.
Immediately following its set, Slayer invited their entire
crew, as well as the band members and staff of the support acts, onstage for a
group photo. It served as an indication of the family atmosphere that’s being
fostered on this farewell tour, and the efforts to document a band in its final
days as an active unit.
After the final ovation, Araya paused briefly in front of a
microphone. “Thank you very much,” he said. “We’ll miss you guys.” There would
be no lengthy farewell speeches on this night.
With that, he strode offstage as the house lights went up. If
this is truly the last hurrah for Slayer as a live act, they left their fans
with an incredible memory to savor.