Tuesday night at the Paramount in Long Island, New York was a black tee affair as fans of Slayer slinked into the 1,500-capacity vanue for a scorching lesson in classic American thrash metal by the band that helped birth the genre. But one shirt stood out: that of guitarist Gary Holt, which read “Kill the Kardashians.”
The pop culture reference riled up the packed-to-the-gills crowd at the nearly 100 year-old former vaudeville theater while the temperature rose to nearly intolerable. Not that attendees seemed to mind one bit as they craned their necks for a prime view of the night’s headliner, with no sight of an opener on the bill.
The devoted did not leave disappointed. As soon as the lights went down at 9:30 and the band took the stage to gargling roars, beneath giant silver upside down crosses on a wide stage flanked by video screens on both sides, the four men of Slayer launched into “World Painted Blood” and continued a fusillade of pummeling songs — “Postmortem,” “Hate Worldwide,” “Die by the Sword” and “Chemical Warfare” — before pausing for their first breather and to engage the crowds.
“How are you guys doing?” asked Tom Araya, lead singer and bassist. It was a moot point, as the place was delirious. The real question on everyone’s minds, rather, might have been: how is Slayer doing? Touring semi-regularly for the past decade or so, the band has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years. Co-founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman fell ill in 2011 and passed away in 2013 and shortly after, original drummer Dave Lombardo exited the band for the third time. Gary Holt of Exodus took over for Hanneman and has been with the band since; Lombardo was replaced by Paul Bostaph, who replaced him in 1987. Holt and Bostaph played together in Exodus for a brief time which makes it seem like it’s all in the family for Slayer.
Now all over 50 — Araya is 54, guitarist Kerry King, a nonstop bobble-head figure of tattooed head-banging excellence, is 51, while Holt and Bostaph also turned 51 this year — it might seem for a metal band in this day and of that age, especially a group known for harrowing speed and intensity, the odds are against Slayer. But the band perseveres, recording a new album, Repentless, due Sept. 11, and hitting the road for this current theater tour, a bow at Bonnaroo and another headlining run on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival this summer.
In fact, the outfit is tough as ever. To wit: the song “War Ensemble,” which had the crowd going nuts.
The rest of the 21-song set was heavy on the best known Slayer albums (forsaking Divine Intervention, Undisputed Attitude, Diabolus In Musica and Christ Illusion), and included five songs from Reign In Blood, three from South of Heaven, three from Hell Awaits and three from Seasons In The Abyss. It’s more or less a greatest hits tour, though the band has been changing up set lists recently. But that’s not to take away from the concert as a value proposition for new and casual fans, who get a chance to see the best of what Slayer has to offer.
Indeed, watching Holt and King run around the stage and trade leads might make some diehards misty for Hanneman but seeing how committed the band is to their craft pushed those nostalgic thoughts away as the crowd moshed in approval.
The band wrapped the night with a spellbinding performance of “Angel of Death” as Araya, King and Holt tossed out picks and Bostaph threw his sticks to the crowd before leaving the stage.
Long Island metal fans, many of whom can hold two beers without spilling, smoke a joint and effortlessly take pictures with their cell phones all while banging their heads at the same time, do not suffer fools gladly and if the show had let them down, they would have let the band know it. Loudly, like Slayer. Long may they reign.
World Painted Blood
Die by the Sword
Spill the Blood
At Dawn They Sleep
Altar of Sacrifice
Seasons in the Abyss
Dead Skin Mask
South of Heaven
Angel of Death