Slayer: The Final Campaign - Inside the Final 2 Shows at the LA Forum (Nov 2019)

The End Came So Fast:

 

Slayer: Final Shows of the Final Campaign - November 29th & 30th - The Forum - Los Angeles, CA

Thousands of fans, including some from South America and the U.K., came to bid farewell to thrash metal icons Slayer during the last two tour dates dubbed The Final Campaign.

Night 1 

To illustrate my dedication to being here for these two shows, let's first start with the Thanksgiving holiday the day before. I had business here in Los Angeles that I could kinda do at my leisure so naturally I chose to get it done around these shows (along with an especially heavy week of awesome in LA). 
I first asked my wife if her brother and his wife would be coming to Texas for the holiday & when the answer was no, I devised a plan. 
Since we were spending Thanksgiving with my family why not let her retired parents go to out Southern California a week in advance and then we'd meet them at at her brother's for a day-after Thanksgiving feast & family time, then I'd leave that evening for the show. 

However, after not getting much sleep the night before Thanksgiving and being at my mom's by 9am we were looking forward to getting some rest that evening after the big meal and before our 7am flight the next morning. Instead of trucking it an hour back to our house, we decided to crash at my mom's now empty apartment (Thanksgiving is held at my sister's) that's less than 10 mins from the airport. However, our 16 month old was having none of it and literally kept us up ALL NIGHT. That's not hyperbole when we left for the airport at 5am we had not had a single wink. We were also taking our small child on his first flight. 
By the time we landed, picked up our car, got to her brother's had our big meal and laid down for a nap we'd been awake for over 32 hours on 3 hrs sleep prior. 

So I crashed for three hours on a mattress on the floor in an upstairs unused bedroom, then braved the traffic and an unusual cold for Southern California for about 90 mins to make it up the Forum in time. The lineup was stacked and I was excited to see all the bands and didn't wanna a miss a note of any. 

Phil Anselmo & The Illegals

 

It occurred to me early in the set (of an already brief set) that I hadn't seen Phil Anselmo in any capacity in almost 10 years. Last time being in NYC when he joined a jam with the guys in Anthrax before their set, a release party for their new LP Worship Music a few days before the Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium. I watched sidestage and I remember it was the first time Anselmo was singing Pantera songs since the band had broken up a decade earlier. Anthrax's Scott Ian was jumping around with his newborn son saying "Phil is singing Pantera songs & my son has no idea!", more on that in a minute. Then I realized I hadn't seen Pantera in almost 20 years. Growing up in Texas I guess it was so easy to take them for granted as I saw dozens of shows of every era of the band and would see Dime & Vinnie everywhere I went. And like most who grew up the DFW area partied with them at least once.

The big to do for this tour with Slayer is that it was the first time ever he was doing a tour of all Pantera songs. He looked to be in great shape, good health & spirit and sounded great. I always marvel at his transformation - I know people get older and change but this dude was a super funny, affable & genuinely nice guy until the drugs took hold. And even if he's no longer on them, sobriety didn't return him to that form, but remained a slower, but still frighteningly intense version. His stage banter is still gold - where it once was sarcastic & weapons grade sharp (think 1991-92) it's long since humorless and demanding and now unintentionally funny.  Early on he declared (to the less than 5,000) in attendance that "This is the mellowest crowd we've played to all tour".
When the boos came in he quickly snapped back "Fuck you, don't boo me, I'm doing my fucking job, now do yours, take a long cold stare at yourselves - A LONG COLD STARE" it was like he'd been waiting his whole life to say it. The way he can still command is audience is awe-inspiring and when he offered a chance for them to "redeem themselves" they took it. He promised a "completely different set" of Pantera songs for the final night tomorrow.

Setlist:

Mouth for War
Becoming (with Throes of Rejection outro)  
Yesterday Don't Mean Shit  
Strength Beyond Strength/Goddamn Electric 
Fucking Hostile 
Walk 
Sandblasted Skin  (w/ snippet of Shout at the Devil & accapella Stairway to Heaven outro

 

 

Ministry

 

 

 

Next up was Ministry, whom speaking of redemption I was hoping they were gonna come in strong. I saw them a few years ago for the first time since the early 90s and it wasn't great. It lacked that genuinely scary thing they had going & it felt almost like a cover band.
This time: Total audio sodomy - I mean literally no bullshit. Leader Al Jourgensen comes out, knows that no one is there to see really anybody but Slayer, announces that's what we are all here for, and basically MURDERED for a half an hour and got outta the way, it was immediate, effective & perfect.

Setlist:

The Missing
Deity
Stigmata
Supernaut (Black Sabbath cover)
Just One Fix
N.W.O.
Thieves
Jesus Built My Hotrod

 

Primus

Stacked right? I mean if I heard about a show with just these three openers I would be definitely be there and now we have all tree PLUS Slayer.
Or would I be? As for a long time I suffered from something I called "The Curse of Primus" as something ALWAYS went wrong the day of the show to keep me from seeing them for over a decade. This seems to have been finally broken as I've now with these two shows seem them 4 times in two years without fail.
They were incredible as you'd expect, completely aware of how outta place they were here but that's what made it special and unique.
That + they performed one of Rush's most obscure & challenging instrumental pieces Cygnus X-1.


Known for their humor, I had to laugh outloud when main man Les Claypool changed the lyrics in the middle section of opening tune Those Damn Blue Collared Tweakers to "Slayer is coming to get ya, Slayer is coming to get ya". Good times.

Setlist -

Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats
Too Many Puppies/ Sgt. Baker
The Heckler
Frizzle Fry
Cygnus X-1 (Rush cover)
Pudding Time
Welcome to This World
My Name Is Mud
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver

 

Now it was time: When the giant curtain finally dropped for Slayer, all hell broke loose.. The band switched up its play list, deviating from the standard it had developed while out on the rest of the tour, obviously to give the folks that showed up for the final two nights something a bit more special.

Slayer

Kicking off with South of Heaven, & crushing through tour debuts of older classics Die By The Sword & Evil Has No Boundaries Tom Araya spoke directly to the crowd.  “I want to thank you guys for coming and making it special.”

However, the chill in the air was met by an insane amount of pyrotechnics that went off throughout Slayer’s set. The fireball budget must have been infinity as the giant bursts of flames shot about the stage, sometimes in sync with the bass and drums. The waves of warmth were welcome in the crowd, but at times it looked as if the band was fully engulfed in the flames as two huge, rectangular fire pits located behind King and Holt, were set ablaze numerous times throughout the evening. 

 

Then it was over. 

Instead of an encore, the band threw out drumsticks, guitar picks, the taped down set lists from the evening and just walked the length of the stage, soaking in the cheers and chants of  “Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!” 

It continued for several minutes, the fans remaining near their seats instead of rushing to their cars to beat traffic out of The Forum, and then finally Araya spoke. 

“There’s so much to thank you for,” he said, his voice shaking and eyes welling up with tears. “I’m gonna miss you guys. I am very thankful that you were part of my life.”

 

Setlist

South of Heaven
Die by the Sword (Tour Debut)
Evil Has No Boundaries (Tour Debut)
Show No Mercy
Black Magic (Tour Debut)
War Ensemble
Temptation (Tour Debut)
Disciple
Gemini (Tour Debut)
Born of Fire
Payback
Postmortem
Jesus Saves
Seasons in the Abyss
Hell Awaits
Dead Skin Mask
Repentless
Chemical Warfare
Raining Blood
Angel of Death

 

I'm gonna preempt this before we head into the Final show is that performance wise & setlist choices, Night 1 was leaps & bounds a better show. Sure you can't beat the mania that surrounds the notion that your seeing something for the final time but their was something truly special about tonight & something oddly routine about the final night. Almost like for the band, this was the final night to enjoy it & tomorrow they will have a million guests to entertain (more on that soon). Like tonight was real & tommorow is acceptance.

 

Night 2

My access for the Final Night was very different than the previous night. I had a guest laminate that allowed me to enter through the Forum Club ( I once saw Prince perform in this room during his 21 Nights Stand here back in 2011).
I expected this to be a star studded affair & that notion was immediately confirmed as I entered the private elevator alongside Testament's Chuck Billy & Tom Morello & when it got to the proper floor, Metallica's Kirk Hammett & Robert Trujillo were entered as we exited.
Tonight I had a special reserved seat sidestage & took my place right as the lights were going down.

Phil Anselmo & The Illegals

 

More of the same as last night with nods to Dime & Vinnie, where as his promise of an "entirely different set of Pantera songs" didn't exactly come to pass as they just swapped out 3 songs. However  one the staples Fucking Hostlie , featured Anthrax's Charlie Benante on drums & one of the songs they swapped out for is the next song on that album This Love. I was sitting stage left when suddenly this giant hairball and a few kids trailing him that I now recognize as Aquaman Jason Momoa (holy shit!) along with another member of Anthrax, Scott Ian & his son Revel come charging out to the nearest mic to do the backup vocals.

Remember what I said above about how 10 years ago when Ian's son was a baby & Phil was doing Pantera songs for the first time in a decade? Another decade passes & now he's singing those songs onstage with Phil. A wonderful, full circle moment to witness.

Setlist:

Mouth for War
Becoming (with Throes of Rejection outro)
I'm Broken
Strength Beyond Strength/Goddamn Electric
Fucking Hostile (w/ Charlie Benante)
This Love (w/ Scott Ian & Jason Momoa & kids)
A New Level 

 

Ministry

Same as last night, zero bullshit - Al announces who they are, why we are all here & then it's down to business. Between each song, he'd say "This one is called ...." and then before the penultimate song "Only one more to go".

 

 

The only thing I would like to know is that, was that lip syncing for Jesus Built My Hotrod? Such a weird, non sensical jibber jabber that seemed to be done at random during recording, impossible to replicate, yet on both of these nights Jourgensen "sang" spot on, identical renditions. I'm calling bullshit on that one but that's the only thing. The rest was total audio sodomy.

 

Primus

Like Anselmo above, they too switched out three songs

 

Setlist:

Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Too Many Puppies/Sgt. Baker
The Seven
Cygnus X-1 (Rush cover)
Southbound Pachyderm
Mr. Krinkle
Welcome to This World
Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats
My Name Is Mud
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver

 

And now it was time:

A few things you should know at this point: Now there was this dude named Rick sitting next to me - Nice enough guy, younger, doing the LA hustle. Something about how he moved out here from Michigan (I think) to join a band & it didn't pan out so naturally he moved into "acting" etc.
We chatted for most of the show during the breaks & at one point I even came back with a beer for him. He said he'd get the next round (more on this later).

Previous to Rick, there was a dude sitting a few rows behind me (early enough that he was alone and no one around him) that you've seen this stereotype of:
40-ish, overweight, long stringy hair and still wearing that denim jacket with all the patches on it. He got my attention by seemingly very upset at something happening on the floor below when after a bit I was able to discern that apparently the brutality in the mosh pit wasn't up to his expectations and he was voicing his dissaproval to no one in particular other than the universe at large. So now, three bands later, I see Fat Patch Guy no longer behind me, but standing in the middle of the mosh pit, waiting for the final Slayer curtain drop, like a conductor of an orchestra about to ensure bloodshed ("When I make the pentagram symbol that means KILL!")

Ok, so Fat Patch Guy is in place, Rick & I have our beers, fans from all over the world are here & ready - Curtain drops - Hell literally breaks loose:

Beyond that there really isn't that much more to say - It was just an enjoyable 2 hour Slayer show - The only thing that made it feel any different is that you were expecting something different to happen: Some song you've never hear live or that they've never played, perhaps some acknowledgement of the moment (Araya did they "Well, this is it!" before his usual intro to War Ensemble) & well...that was it. If I sound dissapointed I'm anything but, however in a perfect world you'd hope that something truly unique would have been planned for the final show. Beloved long time original drummer Dave Lombardo burying the hatchet with the band and joining them for a song or two, just something.
In fact, I would say that the setlist at the two Dallas shows in our hometown they played on this tour were more must-see than this. As I mentioned above, the closest thing they did to what I'm describing was the night before.

Except there was hugging at the end - They are not the come out a take a bow at the end of each show kinda band, so that was special to see.

 

Setlist

South of Heaven
Repentless
Postmortem
World Painted Blood
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Stain of Mind
Disciple
When the Stillness Comes
Born of Fire
Payback
Seasons in the Abyss
Jesus Saves
Chemical Warfare
Hell Awaits
Dead Skin Mask
Show No Mercy
Raining Blood
Mandatory Suicide
Angel of Death

 

Regardless, there was a palpable feeling in the air of , just a few minutes ago it was business as usual and now, it's all over. This is a band that has meant so much to me over the years & has provided the soundtrack to so many moments in my life as an adolescent & as an adult. It's like they are family, my friends & I reference them so often it's like they all live around the corner from us & will forever live in our hearts.

I first saw them in 1991 on opening night of the famed Clash of the Titans Tour with Anthrax & Megadeth. It took 20 years for all four of them (nee Metallica) to get it together and North America only got two shows & I was at both of them. Sadly the West Coast show was Jeff Hanneman's last.
I spent my 21st birthday with them in Dallas, my first legal drink was given to me by Kerry King. Lots of history with these guys, not being here for their final shows was never an option.
To my buddies King, Dave, Jeff & Tom & Paul - Thanks for it all. Slayer!!!!

 

 

Photos

Roy Turner
Stephanie Cabral

 

 

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