Slayer – The Final Campaign – Fargodome – November 17th, 2019
Wow, just straight up, wow. If you missed this show when it came to your town earlier, you missed out. Not only did you miss out on one of the best shows you’re going to see ever, but you missed your chance to thank Slayer for doing what they’ve done for over 30 years. Book your travel, make your plans and get out to see them, you won’t have many chances left. You owe it to both yourself and Slayer to see them off by attending your last performance with them.
Philip H Anselmo and the Illegals
I’m very split on how to approach the review of this band. On one hand, you have the legendary Phil Anselmo and absolutely nobody sings like Phil. On the other hand, you have this opening act, who is probably the greatest Pantera cover band there ever will be. I really would have liked to see more original songs from this band and maybe 1 or 2 covers from Phil’s previous band. I know that this band has the talent and creativity to add some very significant music to the metal world. I’m anxiously awaiting the day, they establish themselves as Phil Anselmo and the Illegals, independent and strong. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with tribute and right off the bat, Phil made it very clear that none of the songs to be performed could have been possible without Vinnie and Dimebag and how much he missed them. They did a fantastic job of covering almost every Pantera song you would have come out to see, This Love, Mouth For War and Walk were fantastic to see Phil perform live.
The first time I heard “Thieves” I was hooked. Strangely, this was in 1991 during Slayer’s “Clash of the Titans” tour as filler music between sets. I had to know more about who this band was. I spent many decades listening to an industrial metal band that carved out a niche for themselves, but went largely misunderstood by the masses. That never got in frontman, Al Jourgensen’s way and he created some of the most complex and iconic sounds that nobody had ever heard before. Oddly, before this show, I’d never seen Ministry live. This was everything I’d expected from a live Ministry performance. They took the stage with “Burning Inside” and I was transported back 25 years in time. They played this song and all the others as though they’d just been released in the spring. They immediately grabbed the audience with crisp clear sounds and provocative images of social unrest on the screens behind them. The band themselves were not terribly well lit, which was a bit disappointing if you were there to see each member perform the songs, but that isn’t really the point of a Ministry show. It is the overall performance and the shared experience, each musician is only a part of that. They closed out their set with “Just One Fix” and left the audience with an unmatched high, ready for the rest of the show.
While there’s a lot to appreciate about Primus, I have never been a huge fan. I’ve liked the more cookie cutter songs they have that were created for the masses like “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and “My Name is Mud”, but most of everything I heard otherwise was just over my head. I now regret never have seen them live before. I now understand that these are simply incredible songs to see performed and make a whole lot more sense as they’re played right in front of you. My favorite song of the night was (oddly enough) “Welcome to this World” which has never been terribly high on my list, but seeing the technical complexity that goes into each part of the song gave me a whole new appreciation for it. This trio has a new found respect from me and I’ll be making a lot more time to decipher the complexity and appreciate the skill that went into creating their songs. I’ve tried to defer reference to the elephant in the room for as long as I can because it is immediately clear that Primus is more than just one band member. You can delay your acknowledgement of, but you simply can not ignore that elephant who’s name is Les Claypool. This guy is simply a master. Every slap, strum, pluck and pick is right where it is supposed to be and delivered in what can only be described as “masterful fashion”. Regardless of how you describe Les’ playing ability, it is undeniably fun to watch him perform. Magic starts somewhere deep in his soul and flows through his body and out his fingertips. This is all done with an ease of effort that I simply can not comprehend. Much like the electrical wires above the highway, they don’t tense or even sway as a bajillion volts travel through them, that’s Les and his magic. No strain, no stress, just here check this out and BLAMO. Absolutely blown away by this performance. It probably won’t change much of my casual listening preferences, but I would carve out time in my calendar to see Primus perform again for sure.
This one isn’t going to be easy for me to write. Ask anyone who knows me, I absolutely love Slayer. I’ve seen them a handful of times since the early 90s and would have probably swum through a lemon juice lake filled with broken glass to see them again. I still would, but I won’t be getting that chance. I was never under the impression that “The Final Campaign” tour would be a gimmick to get people out to the last show before the next last show or maybe the one after that. Slayer has been killing it on stage and in the studio for over 30 years. That’s a heck of a run for any band. I believe they are serious though, this is the end of the journey. Do I think they’ll stop creating or playing or just completely disappear from the music scene? Absolutely not. I don’t think any of them are going to join other bands or produce different works or move on to the next thing right away, but you can’t ask a tree to no longer be a tree. These guys will forever be musicians, no doubt.
The stage set up was very elaborate. At the start of the set, the band was behind a large curtain where various patterns, like the Slayer logo, were projected on to it. The curtain dropped and it was show time. There were several backdrops throughout the night. They were hung in layers and between songs, one would fall away and the next would give that particular set of songs a desired vibe. The backdrops themselves weren’t just something they threw up there and said “Eh, good enough”. No, sir. Each was an incredibly detailed work of art that just happened to be 3 stories tall. They were simply amazing. Slayer has always had fire and pyrotechnics in their shows, but I’ve never seen the incredible amount of fire they brought with them to this show. There were two 20’ walls of flame at the back of the stage on either side of drummer Paul Bostaph. There were also opposing flamethrowers on either side of him that shot flames over his head. From straight on, it looked like he was nearly encased in fire and it was one hell of an effect. The last bit of fire effects were probably the coolest I’ve ever seen. I can only describe it as a pair of fireball machine guns that would blast out arcs of smaller fireballs. This made for a very cool effect during War Ensemble.
The performance was everything I’ve come to expect from Slayer. High drive, high intensity and not a single person in the crowd not directly involved and captivated with the show. Slayer isn’t one of those bands where a person is like “yeah, I kinda like them”. If you like Slayer, chances are you are a dedicated fan and that’s something to be proud of. Slayer certainly appreciates that dedication and played this show like it was for you, that fan that would endure many hardships just for the chance to see them again. Gary Holt and Kerry King are just meant to play together. They are unique musicians and amazing as a pair. Definitely a duo where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I loved how they can switch from lead to rhythm from one to another during a solo series. Very few other duos (Overkill and Judas Priest are the only two that come to mind) can execute this immediate transition so flawlessly. Tom Araya is a class of one. You can’t front a band like Slayer if you’re like anyone or everyone else.
Through their set they covered songs from almost every album from Haunting the Chapel (1984) through their latest release Repentless (2015). Everything was just as good (if not better) than the live release of Decade of Aggression. As much as I loved every song, every note, every scream, some outstanding songs included “South of Heaven”, “Mandatory Suicide” and to close out the show “Angel of Death”.
There was something very different about the way they closed the show. In past performances as they were throwing picks and sticks into the crowd, Tom would be cheering and chanting to the crowd as if to say “See you next time, f-kers!”. This time, there were many gestures of “Thank you”, and waves and bows. This was surely a sign that the legacy has come to an end. I’m glad I got to go to this show. I think in the future it will give me the closure I need for knowing a band that has been as big of a part of my life as, well, my life itself, is done. Tom, Kerry, Gary, Paul, Jeff, Dave, thank you for being Slayer and bringing us along on this decades long journey. For the reader of this review, if there is time, go see this show. Travel if you have to. You won’t be disappointed.
Review and photos by Paul Allen.