The Big Four – A Cinematic Experience
Loud heavy metal, headbanging, moshpits and stage invasions – all part of a normal day for Hammer of course, but not things we normally associate with a visit to the cinema.
Frankly, when Sonisphere announced that they were to broadcast the live appearances of the Big Four – comprised of course Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica – at cinemas around the country, reactions were mixed. Naturally the news that these thrash metal legends had been brought together (initially at Sonisphere Poland earlier this month, with the broadcast show to be filmed in Bulgaria) for the first time in history was cause for celebration, jubilation, and very possibly, medication, but many wondered how the experience would translate to the big screen. We decided to see for ourselves and headed down to the prestigious Leicester Square Odeon, arguably England’s most famous film premier location.
No red carpet had been laid out for our arrival (an administrative oversight no doubt) but undeterred we headed into the stalls, pausing only to grab a drink and a sizable box of popcorn.
The first thing that became clear as first band Anthrax – fronted on this occasion by Joey Belladonna – took the stage was that the volume was reassuringly loud, and with a set that took in such killer cuts as Antisocial, Metal Thrashing Mad and a crushing I Am The Law, that was probably just as well.
The atmosphere was great and remained so when Megadeth appeared onstage and begun ploughing their way through a set which concentrated almost entirely on their late 80s/early 90s catalogue. In fact sitting back in comfort watching the likes of In My Darkest Hour, Hanger 18 and Sweating Bullets, it was easy to feel like we’d got the better end of the deal, particularly since the heavens had now opened up, giving the Bulgarian crowd a royal soaking, but impressively failing to dampen their spirits.
If the first two bands had caused some movement in the aisles, then it was Slayer who really incited action here, particularly during Angel Of Death, which had everyone from seasoned thrashers to those in their mid-teens going ape. In fact, before long a group of about 10-15 young metalheads were out of their seats and headbanging as one at the front of the hall, arms leant on the stage for support and hair a whipping blur.
Metallica’s arrival did little to subdue anyone, and the headbanging had soon evolved into a full-on moshpit, kids flying over seats as Hetfield and the boys chopwped their way through classics such as Creeping Death and Sad But True.
By now there were about 40 people fistbanging, headbanging, and in one case even crowdsurfing (!) at the front and staff were looking concerned. In fact we were wondering where this was going to go ourselves, but when a surge of kids took to the stage, the only logical reaction seems to be to follow them up. There was an undoubted beauty in seeing these guys go crazy to the closing encore of Hit The Lights, Seek and Destroy and Diamond Head cover Am I Evil (a stunning metal moment featuring members of all four bands), three songs that were written about a decade before these kids were born.
As security and management take to the stage and attempt – without much luck – to remove the invaders, we reflect that amazingly thrash metal seems as healthy now as it was in its 80s heyday. Whether the Odeon staff were celebrating that fact, of course, is open to debate.