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Slayer at Madison Square Garden- New York, NY

Slayer MSG

I was sure Florida was going to be my last Slayer show. That’s how plans go. If Slayer wants me back, who am I do deny? LegalP had never seen Slayer but got excited when he saw Ministry was opening (with Primus no less!). Together we had seen Ministry a few times. One night I showed him a Slayer reaction video. Some dude in a room full of sports memorabilia was about to watch a performance of one of the heaviest songs ever. I knew what was coming and was so excited to see it all unfold. “That must be the fastest thing ever,” said the video host just 10 seconds before the song launched into full speed.   “Ok,” said LegalP. “Make me a thrash mix.”

We bought tickets right away. I made sure they provided as direct a view as possible. This wasn’t a “hey, let’s sneak onto the  bridge and dance!” show. If I was alone I may have splurged for floor tix to be in the epic mosh pit on the horizon. That’s not LegalP’s scene and though he’s tall enough to enjoy the floor, seeing the stage in all its glory would be worth it. 

Fast forward past countdown texts over the course of weeks and rehashing plans to ensure all would be flawless. We get to dinner the night of. Fragrant tangines just a few blocks north of MSG. One of my favorite spots. Wait, did he just say he’s never seen a show at MSG? No, I must be hearing things. The tickets said to come in early. The show was starting around 6. Seems we had forgotten an act. Phil Anselmo was opening too!

5:30 pm and we’re walking into MSG. super easy and smooth for some reason. Seems people didn’t have as much in their tight black pants as wooks do in their flowing patchwork corduroy and belt-bags. Once inside we stop in the 100s to say hi to Ken and his crew just long enough to hug before we hear the first notes of Phil’s band.

We get to our seats in the upper levels. Almost directly across from the stage we had a perfect view. Phil’s band was fine and he revived some Pantera joy. It certainly made me miss Dime and Vinny. The pit started to swell but I assured P that this was low tide.

We were more excited for Ministry than many other people in the audience. It wasn’t everyone’s vibe. That, or they were too amped up for Slayer (which I could understand). They played some fast classics in their short set and we made sure Uncle Al heard us cheer from him over the people talking near us.

Primus got a more elaborate set. A huge video wall showed goofy videos. Some were from their music videos where available and others… was that Salad FIngers? “We’re Primus so we usually do our own shows and don’t usually open for anyone. But when asked to open for Slayer, you say, ‘of course.’” I’m paraphrasing Les Claypool. Of course you bow to Slayer and get to see their last MSG show from the wings. Primus was amazing and if you’ve not seen them live, you miss the majesty and power that is Les Claypool and that’s not just watching him stomp around the stage. 

Slayer comes on and it’s just as epic as all the other shows I’ve seen them play. This time I got to experience them through the eyes of a newcomer again. The amazing fire, the lights, the power, the high tide swells and undertow of the crowd. Feeling the energy from afar, even through the requisite ear plugs, the world melted and you’re confronted by the energy Slayer conjures. At one point I thought, they rage this hard for each song and there’s a stack in the show and they’ve been doing this for 40 years? No wonder they’re tired as hell!

Crowds in the stands disperse smoothly for these shows. The folk on the floor are far sweatier and are all smiles. We streamed out of MSG amid people racing for trains and moving on with their lives. I was hoping to see some others dealing with the fact they may never see Slayer again. Perhaps being in the moment, remembering their humility at the end of the show as they stared into the crowd, staying present to my own elevated heart rate was the better way to integrate into a world without Slayer. Only time will tell.

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