Megadeth and Lamb of God graced the Reno Events Center stage on Aug. 31 for “The Metal Tour of the Year”.
The tour was originally slated to come to the biggest little city in November 2020, but was pushed back due to the pandemic. After almost two years without live shows, metal is officially back with two of the greatest heavy metal bands of the past forty years electrifying stages across the country.
Doors opened at 6 p.m. while openers Hate Breed and Trivium kicked things off. Both bands have strongly established followings of their own, with many people getting to the venue early to catch their performances.
At around 6:30 p.m., lines still wrapped around the building for entrance to the floor, and fans were getting impatient. Walking down Center Street, passerbys could hear shouts demanding to be let in.
Thankfully, the crowds outside cleared by the time Lamb of God was set to begin. Lamb of God literally kicked things off with a boom—the curtain that covered the stage suddenly dropped with a bang to reveal the deep red backdrop for the band, with their ominous single “Memento Morí” playing before the lights showed on lead singer Randy Blythe.
Hailing from Richmond, Va., the heavy metal band began their prolific career in the mid-1990s. Since then, they’ve become a Grammy-nominated sensation credited for their contributions to the new-wave heavy metal movement. This was Lamb of God’s first time touring with Megadeth since 2006.
Lamb of God’s set was nothing short of thrilling. When Blythe said that he wanted everyone to make the room “hot”, the band’s popular single “Walk With Me in Hell” began with flames leaping from the stage.
Halfway through their performance, the frontman demanded the pit get as big as possible—and the crowd followed through. As red lights danced across the pit, those in the stands could see fans on the floor creating a whirlpool of moshers.
Before Lamb of God bid fans farewell, Blythe dedicated a song to “Native m*****f*****s”, mentioning the Paiute tribe of nearby Pyramid Lake. Blythe made headlines last year after Lamb of God released “Routes”, a song that lyrically reflected his experience protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
“Routes” also features the lead singer of Testament, Chuck Billy, who is of Pomo Native American descent. The experience was deeply impactful for Blythe, who has a long history of speaking out about social justice issues.
Lamb of God left the crowd wanting more, creating the perfect atmosphere to welcome legends of thrash metal: Megadeth.
Megadeth formed in Los Angeles in 1983, and rose to prominence as one of the big four thrash metal bands — along with Anthrax, Slayer and Metallica. The band’s metal legacy is well-decorated, having won numerous awards including the Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2017 for “Dystopia”.
This 2021 tour is especially personal for frontman Dave Mustaine, who just conquered throat cancer.
Megadeth opened their set with “Hangar 18” from their groundbreaking 1990 album “Rust in Peace”. Their set utilized screens that displayed animations matching the themes of each song, making their performance as visually stunning as it was musically gratifying.
Mustaine displayed just as much demand over the crowd as Blythe did—he would point in a direction, and without even having to ask, that part of the crowd would make noise like no other.
The most difficult part of the night was asking the audience to quiet down enough for him to give a solemn speech about the effects of the global pandemic. Mustaine talked about “his best friend in the whole world,” and how the virus had forced him into a coma. The crowd cheered loudly when Mustaine announced that his friend had finally become responsive only the previous night, and said he had promised this song to his friend and his recovery.
The epic fan-favorite single “Holy Wars … The Punishment Due” was dedicated to all those whose lives had been affected by COVID-19.
This concert meant a lot to those who hadn’t gotten to connect with fellow fans in nearly two years. Metal is more than just a genre—metal is community and self-expression.
Connor Shatz, a medical student from the University of Miami, made the commitment to fly to Reno just for the show.
“The energy is just too much to explain,” he said. “These guys from like the 70s and 80s are still kickin’ ass, and the new age guys that I know are rockin’ with them, and [metal] never dies … The age demographic here is like toddler to 70 years old, so they keep on goin’ and it makes you feel good.”
The Metal Tour of the Year lived up to the headline. For many, having such a high-profile show back in Reno was a reminder that the metal community will continue to thrive for decades to come.
Rock on, Reno.
Olive Giner can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @ol_giner.