After all the screaming about death and mayhem, and all the thrashing drum beats, and the downtuned guitar chugs and ripping solos, the Salem Civic Center lights came on, and the members of Slayer soaked up another show-closing moment on their farewell tour.
Guitarist Gary Holt and drummer Paul Bostaph had tossed the last of their picks and sticks into the crowd, then walked off, leaving the band's two remaining original members, Tom Araya and Kerry King, to soak in the crowd's love.
Araya, the singer and bassist, seemed most effected at this late stage of the band's career. After more than 90 minutes of singing about man's darkest impulses and actions, he walked from one side of the stage to the other, simply looking at the remaining audience members and occasionally smiling before going back to his microphone to say good night.
The diehards finally hit the aisles and headed for the doors, with chants of "Slay-ER, Slay-ER" continuing to rise in the lobby and the parking lot. The arena wasn't packed on Tuesday — Salem Civic Center officials counted 3,861 in a room configured to hold 5,700. That was just as well, given the whirlpools of mosh pits that formed and decayed throughout the four-band bill, not to mention the dozens of crowd-surfers who kept venue security busy in front of the stage during Slayer's set. If many of them didn't get home tired after working out all that aggression, they probably have more energy than they need. Still, sleep might have been difficult as ears rang.
Slayer gave its crowd plenty to get worked up over, from set-opening "Repentless" — title track of the band's 2015 album finale — through "World Painted Blood," "War Ensemble," "Disciple," "South of Heaven" and the sickening show-closer, "Angel of Death." The band's late guitarist and co-founder Jeff Hanneman wrote or co-wrote many of them, aside from "Repentless," which was the only one from that album to be heard in the 20-song set.
To someone who doesn't spend much time listening to this band, things tended to run together by the end of the night, even if song tempos and beats varied. But musically, the band was as tight as they come, hitting sections and accents together to near perfection, never growing sloppy even at high speeds that had some swing to them.
The band may be done after this tour, but 38-years on, it still had all the necessary fire, and not just the pyrotechnic kind.
Gonzo/prog/metal/funk trio Primus had been as weird as Slayer was disturbing, while coming across just as tight and in control of chops as the headliner. Bassist/singer Les Claypool, who has made a name for himself in musical circles beyond this act, still joked to the audience that it might only know the band for performing the "South Park" theme song. "Now would be a good time to go buy a Slayer T-shirt," he said.
Instead, the crowd stuck around, moshing and surfing to the band's 53-minute set, including such awesome musical oddities as "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweakers," "Frizzle Fry," "My Name Is Mud," "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" and a spot-on, though shortened and fully instrumental, cover of Rush's "Cygnus X-1." Claypool, a brilliant bassist, played at least as many solos as guitarist Larry LaLonde. Tim Alexander kept it grooving behind them, with his own freaky flourishes.
Ministry, in a 41-minute set of industrial-laced metal, laid out hard-hitting tunes including "Jesus Built My Hotrod," as frontman Al Jourgensen and crew evoked a post-apocalyptic ZZ Top. "N.W.O" was a slammer that sampled President George H.W. Bush's 1991 "new world order" State of the Union Address. The band was blasting, but kept its time tight for the set's multiple synced-up samples and effects.
Former Pantera singer Phil Anselmo and his band, The Illegals, did a set of music from his career-making band. "Mouth For War," "Yesterday Don't Mean S---" and "A New Level" were still compelling but odd to hear, given how Anselmo had feuded with his bandmates, the late brothers "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and Vinnie Paul Abbott — and in performance at a 2016 "Dimebag" tribute show, was captured on a cell phone video giving a Nazi salute and yelling the words "white power."