On July 8, 2011, nearly an estimated 190’000 bore witness to a solid start to the UK’s Sonisphere Festival as the Big Four, legendary icons of the thrash genre to metalheads worldwide, took to Knebworth’s Apollo Stage with a truly special performance, which followed with an exceptionally memorable appearance from one of the leading members of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – Diamond Head – who inspirationally brought the respected artists to an encore of Am I Evil(?). An incredible start to proceedings was closely matched by Hardcore Scotsmen Biffy Clyro, and equaled only from the Nu-Metal gods Slipknot, who were also confirmed as headliners for Sonisphere 2011.
After much unpacking and settling on one of the warmest days of the year, happy campers made their way around the site and found their place amongst the highly expectant crowd, as the Knebworth prepared for a band that simply needs no introduction amongst the world of metal – Anthrax. The crowd erupted into a deafening roar of eager anticipation for the night’s proceedings as the legendary Joey Belladonna emerged onto stage, followed modestly of course by the band in turn. Following an enthusiastic approval from the crowds Anthrax reacted by kicking off proceedings with an aptly named classic Caught in a Mosh, which as you’d imagine was demonstrated with excellence by the thousands upon thousands. A thoroughly fulfilled and joyous Anthrax continued with such anthems as Madhouse, Indians, Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t and ended brilliantly with another hit from their well celebrated 1987 album Among the Living – I Am the Law. With an overwhelmed thank you to the masses, and well received reception, Anthrax left the stage – leaving behind an air of modesty and sheer joy as the crowds of people realise they had witnessed only the beginning of a night certainly no able minded being would forget for decades to come.
Only one man could follow such an ovation, and that man of course is the one and only Dave Mustaine. As per the man single-handedly stole the show with unnerving riffs, breakdowns and his now iconic gut-wrenching solos. Nowadays admittedly Megadeth aren’t the force they once were, and due to many line-up changes and problems internally (over the bands active [near] 30 year career since emergence over 20 people have participated officially in the band) it’s rare to catch the true essence of the musicians that inspired and developed the world of metal as we once knew it, however one thing can always be depended on; Mustaine will put on a a more than exceptional show… And from start to finish, Mustaine held true to his prestigious status. The set began with a somewhat typical slow start (Trust, My Darkest Hour, Wake Up Dead), and it was soon clear to the masses that Mustaine was the only particular essence that put his whole energy into the performance necessary to captivate such a dismissive audience. However, the crowds mood evolved from tolerance to pleasure when Mustaine plucked his strings to sound the beginnings of perhaps his bands most famous single; Hangar 18. As the song progressed it was evident that Dave was inspired by the crowds new found faith, and continued to display incredible energy into the next half hour that had clearly paid off some treat – his audiences applause grew louder with each passing song, until the very near end. Following Symphony of Destruction, Dave looked at the crowd wearily and praised them for their support, and repaid them by announcing the next weapon in his abattoir – Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying(?). The crowd responded with a roar of approval, and the pits positioned themselves for the beauty that was without doubt one of Dave’s finest pieces of writing. Performed with such incredible enthusiasm, energy and compassion, Megadeth had finally won the crowd over in what would eventually emerge as one of the finest performances of the night. Before it was over though, with a wry smile of pleasure and exhaustion, he strung the instantly recognizable riff of his personal favourite* ; Holy Wars. The intensity of the crowd grew fiercer, who responded to Daves singing with screaming, shouting, and sheer brutality in the pits below him. As Dave played with all the strength he had left in his 49 near old bones the satisfaction that welcomed his last pluck of the string gave way to a grin that would be infectious to the most evil of men. Not for the first time, the legendary Dave Mustaine had displayed qualities that have made him the iconic and respected frontman he is to this very day, and this night would be one he would remember for the remainder of his days. With a final wave and words of gratitude and appreciation, Dave and his crew retired backstage to the drowning sounds of a crowd that had witnessed and participated in one of the most inspirational sets of the year 2011. Although, as I previously stated, it is rare for Megadeth to leave an impressionable imprint in the opinions of today’s ever-changing audiences, Dave Mustaine had truly left a mark of utter magnificence and fascination in the minds and memories of the waves upon waves, the thousands upon thousands, the truly captivated.
Remember people – The music’s always better when experienced live!