All images courtesy of 5Bam Management
By Andrew DiCecco
By 7:45 Saturday evening, a faint autumn breeze swirled through Hersheypark Stadium as a sea of impassioned headbangers restlessly waited in anticipation.
The distinctive buzz intensified moments after The Hu, a Mongolian folk metal band, cleared the stage, as diligent stagehands exhibited their best NASCAR pit crew impressions in preparation for Megadeth, the next act on the bill.
With the top of the hour fast approaching, the lights dimmed. On cue, the gripping deep cut “Prince of Darkness” began bellowing through the stadium’s PA system as a fluorescent video board accompanied the chilling introduction.
Suddenly, a spotlight focused on Megadeth sticksman Dirk Verbeuren, who stood atop his towering drum riser, jubilantly raising his arms to the boisterous onlookers with a stick in each hand. With that, the band segued into a rousing rendition of “Hangar 18,” whetting the crowd’s appetite for the impending onslaught.
Next up was “Dread and the Fugitive Mind,” from the band’s ninth studio album, The World Needs a Hero (2001), but for me, it was the third song in the set that proved to be among the evening’s highlights.
Palpable energy permeated the venue the moment the blistering quartet launched into “Angry Again,” a relative deep cut explicitly written for the 1993 blockbuster Last Action Hero before appearing on the band’s 1995 EP Hidden Treasures. With his trusty Flying V in hand, Dave Mustaine – Megadeth’s lead guitarist, vocalist, and leader – showcased scorching leads while delivering the song’s candid lyrics with his charismatic flair.
Mustaine’s cohesive interplay with rhythm guitarist Kiko Loureiro, a multidimensional axe-slinger with astute musical aptitude, was evident early into the performance. Mustaine affords Loureiro ample opportunity to demonstrate his talents on stage. It’s also worth mentioning that since joining the seminal thrash metal outfit in 2015, Loureiro has indubitably earned Mustaine’s trust, and his influence is apparent on Megadeth’s latest album, The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!
In constant harmony, Megadeth’s dynamic rhythm section, comprised of the aforementioned Verbeuren and veteran bassist James LoMenzo, exuded discernable effervescence and worked tirelessly throughout the night. Verbeuren’s thunderous, rapid-fire assault approach to the drums, coupled with LoMenzo’s nuance, tasteful playing, and natural stage presence, arms Megadeth with its most prolific 1-2 punch to date.
Much to my delight, Megadeth’s 10-song setlist included two tracks from The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!, “Soldier On!” and “We’ll Be Back.” While some concertgoers were unfamiliar with the band’s new catalog – including a handful of those seated around me – the up-tempo intensity brought the masses to their feet, inciting a legion of headbangers. Aside from “Angry Again,” “Soldier On!” was another highlight for me. Despite the rigorous demands both songs entail, the quartet’s flawless execution left the Hershey crowd awestruck.
As the traditional set drew to a close, LoMenzo addressed the crowd and introduced the ninth song on the docket, “Peace Sells.” A roar of elation erupted as the Megadeth classic was introduced, with the crowd reciting, “If there’s a new way / I’ll be the first in line / But, it better work this time” back to Mustaine at every opportunity. An epic crescendo inevitably manifested itself as the song approached its conclusion before the band abruptly bid the crowd farewell, if only for a moment.
In short order, the band reassumed their respective positions and sent Hersheypark Stadium into a frenzy once more with an unrelenting performance of “Holy Wars,” descending on the stadium like a buzzsaw from its menacing opening riff down to Mustaine’s final note. The fact that I had just witnessed a masterclass performance was not lost on me as I left the venue and made my way to my car. The chemistry between those four musicians was unique, and it seems they are only beginning to find their stride.
It is Mustaine’s steadfast determination and refusal to compromise — rather than rest on his laurels — that repels complacency and preserves an element of authenticity that’s stood the test of time. Nearly 40 years after its founding, Megadeth continues to function as a lethal juggernaut, shaped by Mustaine’s unwavering resilience and penchant for navigating adversity.
If the band’s 16th studio album, The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!, is any indication, Megadeth won’t be going away anytime soon.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor for vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at email@example.com