Last Night: Megadeth, In Flames, Children of Bodom at Nokia Theater

Megadeth is metal. (Matt Mueller)
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Gigantour featuring Megadeth, In Flames and Children of Bodom April 15, 2008 Nokia Theater

Better Than: Taste of Chaos and Take Action tours combined. Download: Check out Matt Mueller's photos from last night's show.

No one has been able to tell me why this year's Gigantour had to begin at 5:30 p.m. It's more difficult to be dark and metal when it's bright and sunny. By having the Tuesday night show start so early, the opening bands had limited crowds. It's not that High on Fire or Job for a Cowboy weren't stellar, but that a good number of metalheads were working until at least 5 p.m. Getting to Nokia in time to see either of the opening bands was damn hard for nine-to-fivers.

The crowd began to fill out as Children of Bodom took the stage. The Finnish metal band peppered its set with tracks from its new record, Blooddrunk, which was released yesterday. The title track, with its charging bassline, earned the most enthusiastic response of the new songs. Of course, the two-third full venue went insane for tracks from Hate Crew Deathroll. (I can't blame 'em, that's my favorite COB disc.) The band appeared to be hindered by the stage setup. When I've seen COB in the past the members have worked the stage, but last night all but guitarist Roope Latvala were stationary. The band's lack of movement didn't affect the crowd -- a large pit was in constant motion throughout COB's set.

The crowd only had a short break before In Flames took the stage. The second the Swedes stepped to their microphones the fans rose to their feet. It was understood from the first chord that In Flames was on stage to annihilate. The only impediment on that quest was the inclusion of new songs in the set. (The band released Sense of Purpose on April 1.) Vocalist Anders Fridén made a 'special' pitch for the new disc: “Go buy it. It will be your best friend for next 10 years. So, go buy it. Or download it, as long as you're here, right? But if you buy it, I can afford a car to go to the gym. So buy it.” The band members might have been a bit, um, wasted.

However, it was a surprising treat to hear In Flames play a smattering of songs from its catalog, including “Food for the Gods,” “Clayman,” “My Sweet Shadow” and “Cloud Connected.” (We were a little bummed to not hear “Bullet Ride,” but the band was pressed for time.) The audience loved when In Flames broke out “Take This Life” from 2006's Come Clarity, a fast, power-driven song with a focused rhythm section and the signature Swedish metal melodic guitar sweeps.

The room finally filled out more fully as Megadeth's set time closed in. Frontman Dave Mustaine sauntered to center stage, and upon hitting his mark the band kicked into its set. From the first chugging guitar riff damn near everyone was on their feet, fists pumping in the air, playing air guitar or headbanging –- or, like the early 20s guy next to me, doing all three. While the fans were all over the place with their Megadeth love, the band's blond bassist James Lomenzo offered up some of the best headbanging I've seen (which is saying something). While all the members of Megadeth brought energy and sincerity to the stage, the speakers had trouble handling some of the deeper bass. Three songs in and it sounded like the music was choking. It lasted throughout most of a song, wrecking the band's flow. Luckily, following a short break, the band was back on track and sounding more like itself. Mustaine's vocals were a bit less than perfect, but the crowd didn't care. He could have hummed the songs, and the people at Nokia last night would have begged for more. That's the kind of charisma Megadeth has on stage. The crowd always connects. -- Chelsea Ide

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: Children of Bodom's Hate Crew Deathroll is probably in my top 10 favorite albums.

Random Moments: During In Flames' set change I spotted a 5-year-old girl in her best metal regalia -- including a Children of Bodom shirt, dark blue bandana and chain necklace. Her mom was quick to make sure she kept her earplugs in the whole night.

Later during the Megadeth set change, Pantera's “Walk” came across the speakers and the audience erupted. The crowd actually sang along, complete with throwing fists in the air in the chorus.

Artist Suggestion: Those who didn't arrive early enough to check out Arizona death metal group Job for a Cowboy need to pick up the band's Metal Blade debut, Genesis. It's utterly heavy, and vocalist Jonny Davy has a voice unlike others. (And, yes, they know the name blows.)

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