The Big Four Live

Odeon Leicester Square - June 22, 2010

In probably the biggest event of its kind, Sonisphere Bulgaria, one of the much-talked about festival shows featuring The Big Four of Thrash Metal sharing a bill for the first time, was screened in cinemas in 31 countries around the World.

All shows were headlined by Metallica playing between 90 and 120 minutes, with either Slayer or Megadeth taking the next most prominent slot (sometimes other bands played in between at some shows) playing 60 minutes each, and Anthrax taking the earliest slot playing 45 minutes. Initially believed to be screening live in all countries (regardless of time zones) it was later revealed that the screenings would be in the evening at local time, so some countries would get the broadcast live, some would get a playback. A second showing was also added in some US cinemas to run.

In the UK alone, 79 cinemas took part, with three in London. Ticket prices were around £15 for the four-hour film, and this is probably the biggest contributing factor to the Odeon Leicester Square, venue for many of the biggest red carpet movie World premieres, barely being half-full for the 18:30 start time.

After a very brief introductary montage Anthrax took the stage and played a tight, if a little by-the-numbers set which lasted around 45 minutes, their usual set length at the Sonisphere events; returning vocalist Joey Belladonna sounding particularly impressive on a short rendition of Black Sabbath's Heaven And Hell part way through their own Indians as a tribute to deceased singer Ronnie James Dio. The sound wasn't as good as it could have been, mostly down to the guitars having too much treble and the overall mix pushing the drums to far up front, and this would continue through Megadeth and Slayer's sets too.

It was at the end of the set however that a wave of disappointment passed over the audience as a quick cut-screen showing Megadeth's logo gave way to Mustaine and company taking the stage, barely 20 seconds after Anthrax had left it, gear already set up, backdrop already in place, bringing with them the realisation that not only was the broadcast not live as expected, but that it had been edited.

When Megadeth left the stage after 45 minutes it was clear not only was change-over time between bands being cut, but so was stage banter and possibly even actual songs. It has since transpired three songs each were cut from their sets. Metallica did post on their website that the broadcast would not be live and would not feature entire sets, but all of the advertising the literature on the official website for the event failed to state this and much of the audience were disappointed they could not at least see the full show, even if it wasn't live.

Slayer came on third, although with noteably brighter skies that Megadeth, who suffered a thunder storm at the beginning of their set, and likewise finished 45 minutes later. Three songs were also cut from their set; all recent ones. The sound had improved a little by this point, but not much. During the set many fans on the ground floor of the two-tier screen rushed to the front to the raised stage-like part in front of the screen itself, to create a convential concert front-row, cheering, head-banging and moshing, much to the alarm of the cinema staff.

A pre-recorded tribute segment to Ronnie James Dio was inserted between the Slayer and Metallica sets. Kerry King (Slayer guitarist) related the story of the first time he met Dio, then Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and Scott Ian (Anthrax) shared Dio-related stories together.

Metallica came on straight after and the sound was noticeably better for them, with a much fuller guitar sound and less invasive drums. They lost five songs from their set, but they did include the events biggest talking point. For the first song of their encore they brought out all five members of Anthrax, all four members of Megadeth, and Dave Lombardo from Slayer (drums) to jam on Diamond Head's Am I Evil?. Given the much-documented controversy that has existed between the bands and particular members for over two decades, seeing all of them on stage playing together was a dream come true for a lot of fans, particularly seeing Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield play together for the first time since Mustaine was fired from Metallica in 1983.

The other three members of Slayer did not perform the song, but vocalist/bassist Tom Araya and guitarist Jeff Hanneman came on stage at the end of the track to celebrate with the rest. Kerry King did not appear, and rumours are that he was ill. Metallica closed with their usual Seek And Destroy, at which point the crowd downstairs jumped onto the raised stage, creating a moshpit. Staff attempts to move them away from the screen were futile, but no damage was done.

At the very end of their set Ulrich announced on stage that the footage will be used for a Big Four DVD, which is expected to be two discs, including the complete sets from all four bands plus bonus footage, and will be released in September 2010.

The quality of the footage was outstanding, shot entirely in high definition, and if the sound can be mixed properly for the DVD, it will be a spectacular release, probably the live release of the year.

Anthrax Setlist: Caught In A Mosh / Got The Time / Madhouse / Be All, End All (cut) / Antisocial / Indians > Heaven And Hell > Indians / Medusa (cut) / Only (cut) / Metal Thrashing Mad / I Am The Law

Megadeth Setlist: Holy Wars / Hangar 18 / Wake Up Dead (cut) / Headcrusher / In My Darkest Hour / Skin O' My Teeth / A Tout Le Monde (cut) / Hook In Mouth / Trust (cut) / Sweating Bullets / Symphony of Destruction / Peace Sells / Holy Wars (Reprise)

Slayer Setlist: World Painted Blood / Jihad (cut) / War Ensemble / Hate Worldwide / Seasons In The Abyss / Angel of Death / Beauty Through Order (cut) / Disciple (cut) / Mandatory Suicide / Chemical Warfare / South of Heaven / Raining Blood

Metallica Setlist: Creeping Death / Fuel (cut) / For Whom The Bell Tolls / Harvester of Sorrow / Guitar solo / Fade To Black / That Was Just Your Life (cut) / Cyanide / Sad But True (cut) / Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (cut) / All Nightmare Long (cut) / One / Master of Puppets / Nothing Else Matters / Enter Sandman // Am I Evil? (with Megadeth & Anthrax) / Hit The Lights / Seek And Destroy

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2010, Features, Special Reports, , , ,

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