Slayer’s aesthetic felt very appropriate for their Monday night show at the CHI Health Arena. Skulls, crosses (albeit upside-down ones), and black attire were prevalent for the California thrash metal band’s final Nebraska show.
The funeral paraphernalia was appropriate because, after last night’s show, the band only has seven more performances before pulling the plug on their live act. That didn’t mean the mood surrounding the show was somber — far from it. It was jovial.
Blood-curdling shouts of “Slllaaaayyyerrr!” were lobbed across the arena the same way two co-workers would address each other with a friendly “hello” in the break room. Friends warmly greeted each other on the floor, drinking and lighting one another’s cigarettes while inspecting their newly-purchased $45 t-shirts. Even the guy dressed like the Crow received a warm reception from the hooligans that were forming a mosh pit before the show even began.
At approximately 10:25 p.m., the lights dimmed and several images — including the band’s logo and the aforementioned crosses —were projected onto an enormous black curtain in front of the stage before it was yanked down as the band kicked into “Repentless.” Just like on record, it was pummeling. The song seemed even faster than the 208 beats per minute that it’s clocked at on record. Vocalist Tom Araya delivers his lines with a percussive energy that slices through the twin guitar attack of Kerry King and Gary Holt and the Tazmanian devil-style drumming of Paul Bostaph. Throw in a little smoke and a lot of fire and it was exactly what the half-empty but full-voiced arena had been crying out for the nearly four-and-a-half hours since the doors opened.
While nobody would describe the band’s music as happy, its intensity didn’t do anything to dampen the good vibes that were abundant before the show. More experienced moshers were helping the weaker ones up off the ground. Several men — and one woman — were testing the bounds of public indecency by removing their shirts and waving them around their heads M.L. Carr-style. One concert-goer landed on his head after being tossed over the front rail and was consequently dragged by security to the back of the floor. By the time he made it there, he was screaming the chorus of “Mandatory Suicide” with a massive grin plastered across his face.
Even the band, except for King — who is downright terrifying at all times — seemed to be having a ball. Ayara joked with the audience about karma “being a bitch” before asking them to scream the intro to “Payback” and Holt was constantly hamming it up on the right side of the stage while wearing a shirt that read “Kill the Kardashians.”
At no point though did they stop rocking. They careened through 10 of the 12 albums in their legendary discography including a heavy focus on their iconic twosome of albums from the late-’80s, Reign in Blood and South of Heaven. The former drew a particularly warm reception from the audience, especially when the band whipped out “Raining Blood,” the album’s closing track and the band’s most popular song.
After performing a vicious version of “Angel of Death,” the members made their way around the stage, flicking picks, tossing drumsticks, and holding up the sign of the horns. Ayara, even more than the other members, appeared to be taking in the moment. He made his way from side-to-side gazing longingly at the small army of fans that turned out on a school night to see his band for the last time.
“I’m now realizing what an important part of my life you were,” he said to the audience. “I’m gonna miss you guys.” And with that, he shuffled off the stage while the audience shouted “Slllaaaayyyerrr!” in the most hospitable way possible.