MANILA, Philippines--There's a black snake coiled many times over at the entrance to World Trade Center on July 29. Even the Typhoon Gener could do nothing to scare it away; the silent beast just keeps growing longer by the minute. I've seen this many-actually even more-people in black shirts before, yet metal concerts like this don't happen often in these parts. Even Dave Mustaine, front man of Megadeth, says, "The thing about coming to the Philippines is, it's been long overdue. We should have come here a long time ago."
The beast disintegrates into thousands of metal fans once inside the venue. And it isn't so silent after all. The long wait coupled with Colt 45 beer sold in plastic cups at the concession stands has made for a few more minutes of tensed waiting-"Come on," you can almost hear the low buzz amid the banter, "summon the rock gods now so we may worship." Some choose to deal with the anticipation by instigating chants of "Megadeth! Megadeth!" every few minutes. Others go nuts on the beer, cheer every single white guy that goes on stage to check the equipment and pose for random photos, including one for the band's female crew at the tech booth.
The crowd has come to gnash its teeth on some metal for sure; the whole place fills with a manly roar-no screaming teen girls on this one-as the band steps on stage and, without much ado, rips into "Never Dead" from last year's album "Th1rt3en" [Thirteen]. All of ten girls are in the crowd (and of course I'm exaggerating!); among those of us that have come, there are the dutiful girlfriends that have accompanied their men who are jumping around, losing their minds. And there are the rock chicks (and I mean that as a badge of honor, really) that know the words to the songs and throw rock horns in the air.
Of Megadeth, one simply can't loosely put two words together and say "they rocked" because it barely justifies, especially since those combined words have been used to described everyone, including pop artists that never really rocked the way rock is intended. Celebrating their 30th year together next year, three decades worth of experience and mostly uncompromising stand-except for a brief period in the '90s when their label wanted them to become "more alternative," at a time when people were "growing goatees and stuff," Mustaine admits-have armed the band with precision sharpened by weathering label BS and changing musical tastes, and being in the studio and on the road as long as they have.
Achieving longevity in this punishing business is something Mustaine says comes from being "honest to yourself," not "screwing your fans over" and "writing songs that don't suck!" And it's never more honest than when they are up on stage, tearing through "Hangar 18," "Head Crusher," "Trust," and others from their catalogue of 13 studio albums. I find out later on from friends that the audio in some parts of WTC's Hall D leaves much to be desired-or maybe some of us are just in the wrong place. But even Lady Gaga's show at the MOA Arena had left me, at one point, grasping for breath for its almost assaulting volume and the reverb that nearly did my chest in. I was hoping for a similar experience here, but perhaps midway across the venue its acoustics dispersed the sound, dulling the edges of the riffs, losing the lows of the bass and swallowing the sound of the pounding drums, the machine gun fire of the double bass drums somewhat lost in the glorious racket.
But the band plows on, muddy sound and all, with "Sweating Bullets," "A Tout Le Monde" (with its gentle intro that provides a very short moment of respite), "Guns, Drugs & Money," "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)," and "Public Enemy No. 1." They would pause a few seconds between songs rather than play them in a relentless straight set, but even that doesn't dampen the crowd's enthusiasm. They need no pyrotechnics or much gimmicks-the stage is actually nearly bare aside from the giant screen behind the band, and two monitors on either side-but their enjoyment is priceless.
When Mustaine and guitarist Chris Broderick would trade licks, I could only imagine how truly piercing the sound their dueling guitars make. It must have been awesome beside the speakers. But it doesn't matter, because as the band wraps up the night and drives more people crazy with "Symphony of Destruction" and "Peace Sells" (wishing I could hear David Ellefson's iconic opening bassline more), the crowd still isn't spent.
Megadeth encored with "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due," but we've not been punished enough, I feel. Nevertheless, during one of Mustaine's spiels, he did say, "I'm impressed" with their first time here. Not bad at all. And for us that have grown tired of the drivel that is passed for music these days, we do hope Deth would come again.