When Slayer first announced this, the last of three intimate warm up shows on the island of Ireland in preparation for their trip around the European festival circuit – culminating, of course, at Bloodstock – there was at first a certain degree of incredulity. “Are you fucking serious?” was the most asked question as word rapidly spread around the Belfast metallians that, yes, the band would indeed be playing what is regarded by many in that community as their ‘local’…
Needless to say, when tickets went on sale, they were snapped up instantly – selling out in less than five minutes, making it the fastest selling show in the venue’s history… obviously this also led to a lot of disappointed fans who were not fortunate enough to get a hold of one of the few hundred tickets for what was being regarded as not only the gig of the year but possibly that of the decade!
The anticipation which had been building for what seemed like an eternity started to reach fever pitch in the two days immediately before Belfast’s very own ‘Slayer Day’, as reports started to filter up from the brace of Dublin shows: not only were the quartet truly at the top of their game but they were changing the set listings each evening and including some rarely played gems. It was news that had fans positively shaking with excitement. It was quickly followed by the revelation of the worst kept secret on the local music scene – Slayer would be returning to Belfast (and the Limelight) in mid-August: the promoter had been trying to keep it under wraps until after the show, but the date appeared on the back of the official T shirts, and so the cat was out of the bag…
Unusually, there was no support act for any of the Irish shows, but that did not stop Slayer’s rabidly loyal fans cramming into the Limelight almost 90 minutes before the allotted show time: indeed, many fans had rammed the adjoining bar to the rafters for most of the afternoon, determined to make the most of seeing their heroes as up close and personal as it probably is possible to get these days. Their devotion and patience was rewarded when the house lights dimmed a full 12 minutes before the advertised stage time and the opening volleys of ‘World Painted Blood’ turned the room into a frenzy of flailing bodies (as if the venue’s security were going to have any chance of enforcing the ‘no moshing or crowdsurfing’ notices on the entrance!).
What followed was a heavy metal masterclass – and yes, Slayer truly were at the top of their game: stage right, Gary Holt has big boots to fill, but delivers the late Jeff Hannemann’s riffs and solos with ease; stage left, Kerry King is a positive behemoth of restrained aggression; at the rear, Paul Bostoph proves once again that he is the only drummer capable of replacing Dave Lombardo; but tonight is really only about one man…
Tom Araya towers over the room like a colossus, inciting the fans to more and more insanity in the pit, his snarl alternating with an almost beatific smile, which just gets wider as the evening progress and he feeds off the audience and their enthusiasm. What strikes you most about the frontman is his quietly spoken between-song manner, which borders on politeness, humility even: when he thanks everyone for coming, you know he means it, and that he is talking to each and every person in front of him.
The set is delivered with practised precision, and does prove to be a mixture of Slayer ‘standards’, fan favourites and a few treats – as if the band are using this trio of club shows as a giant live rehearsal for the bigger dates on the road ahead… but, if this was the case, then you won’t hear any complaints from anyone present, as these four thrash metal veterans proved once again that, certainly in the live arena, they are among the best in the business.
Gig of the year? Well, I’ll tell you after August…
World Painted Blood, Hallowed Point, War Ensemble, Hate Worldwide, At Dawn They Sleep, Stain Of Mind, Disciple, Bloodline, Mandatory Suicide, Chemical Warfare, Seasons In The Abyss, The Antichrist, Payback, Hell Awaits, Dead Skin Mask, Raining Blood
South Of Heaven, Angel Of Death
Slayer headline Bloodstock Open Air, Catton Hall, Derbyshire, on Sunday August 11th, and return to the Belfast Limelight on Tuesday August 13th. Tickets for the latter show go on sale at 9am tomorrow (Friday June 14th).
Photographs taken at The Academy, Dublin, on Tuesday June 11th by Lisa Tiffany Gellar: http://soundshootermusic.com/