Published Feb 09, 2012Resurrected in 2012 after a four-year break, Megadeth's Gigantour is no massive touring fest, but it is a monumental event for heavy metal spirit. The tour invaded Hamilton, ON for the last of three Ontario shows, with Italy's Lacuna Coil in the opening slot. They may seem like an odd choice for this otherwise testosterone-drenched lineup, but as tiny as she is, frontwoman Cristina Scabbia exudes a ton of attitude and stage presence, whether slamming on a cymbal or sitting down to chat with the crowd. Though Lacuna Coil's short set only touched on their latest three albums, the band's new material came off strong, showcasing their integration of dark melodies and heavy groove.
Volbeat's "rockabilly on Danish speed" followed with a little extra heavy metal clout: Mercyful Fate's Hank Shermann on guest guitar, arching his back into the hardest-hitting notes. Their set -- energy and power straight through -- was a mash-up of tributes and dedications, with nods to Johnny Cash, Elvis and Slayer, and a memorial to loved ones lost. The entire band is dynamic, but Michael Poulsen claims the spotlight, even sacrificing his pompadour to all the thrashing about. He even made an extra appearance later to join Motörhead on vocals for the classic "Killed by Death."
Motörhead have no trouble living up to their legendary status and sounded like pros, somehow laid back even as they're blasting out their version of rock'n'roll as loud as hell. Frontman Lemmy Kilmister, bass strapped across his chest, doesn't stray far from his mic but seems to occupy a space ten times that size. Playing not much longer than Volbeat, they rolled out their set list like a career highlight reel, adding in one track off 2010's The Wörld Is Yours and a drum solo (Mikkey Dee, a barely refined "Animal" behind the drums). With "Ace of Spades," they kicked the steamroller into a high-gear finish to wrap up with "Overkill" and a timeless solo from guitarist Phil Campbell.
Set changes were smooth and efficient all night, so in what seemed like no time, Megadeth were warming up with live staple "Trust" and then blasting into a note-perfect whirlwind of older adrenaline-raisers, including "In My Darkest Hour," "Hangar 18" and "Angry Again." The pace slowed down mid-set, first to highlight Dave Ellefson's bass work, and then for an unusual Dave Mustaine/Cristina Scabbia duet. Three songs in a row from last year's Th1rt3en and a guitar give-away drained some of the band's ferocious intensity, but then Mustaine and company returned to older favourites (with a brief appearance by mascot Vic Rattlehead in "Peace Sells"), saving "Holy Wars... the Punishment Due" for the encore.
The multimedia backdrop seemed underused, and Mustaine's high-end vocals were characteristically weak, but these complaints came up as minor afterthoughts. Megadeth were, as ever, a finely tuned instrument delivering a crowd-wooing performance to an audience clearly willing to play along.