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Of the 8,000-plus folks stormtrooping in the Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night - celebrating the Gigantour featuring Megadeth and Motörhead - precisely four were not wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the demonically-fonted logo of one metal band or another.
Which you'd expect - the merch table wardrobe is part of the brotherhood. What WAS perhaps unexpected was the demographics of these folks. One immediately assumes the crowd at such a show would be composed exclusively of white males ranging in age from 14 to perhaps 26.
Think a bit more about the legacies of Megadeth and Motörhead, though. Head 'deth-ist Dave Mustaine has passed the 50 barrier and has been releasing albums with his iconic shredders since 1983. Meanwhile, Motörhead's leader Lemmy (Methusa-lemmy?) has presided over 20-odd M-head records and - well, this says it best - once played in Hawkwind!
What this all means is that, perhaps more than any other niche in rock music, metal (and its many derivations) has a devoted fan base immune to the vagaries and indifference of the aging process. At least half the audience Friday looked more like Brian Williams than an acned skateboarder, and there was no shortage of multi-generational female fans either.
So how WAS the music? Does it resonate as we approach the AARP years as it did back when the world was young? Well, both bands still kick major ass. They both have tremendous players, consistent material and, most importantly, belief in the music. When, as he does every night, Lemmy cries before their last song - almost invariably "Ace of Spades" - "We are Motörhead and we play rock and (expletive) rock and roll!" he's not joking around.
In fact, for an hour, Motörhead spat out great slabs of their meth-punk tunes - the construction of which reminds of the great Onion joke: "Taco Bell celebrates its one-thousandth recipe using the same six ingredients."
But, in the capable claws of Motörhead, this is a reliable formula. Yes, they did "Bomber," "We Are Motörhead," "Metropolis," "Going to Brazil," "The One to Sing the Blues" and "I Know How to Die." Or that's what their roar seemed to indicate. Plus, Lemmy's voice, which is being studied by the Centers for Disease Control because he's still alive despite phlegm having completely defeated his pulmonary system, doesn't exactly deliver lyrics with the crispness of Kenneth Branagh.
As for Megadeth, its 80-minute headlining set was an inspired collection of tunes from across its repertoire. "Trust," arguably their finest song, set the pace, and intricate but always melodic faves such as "Hangar 18," "Wake the Dead," "Symphony of Destruction" and "Peace Sells" seemed fresh and vibrant.
A guest vocal turn by Cristinia Scabbia, of opening band Lacuna Coil, on "A Tout le Monde" worked particularly well, and this Mega-lineup - with drummer Shawn Drover, guitarist Chris Broderick and longtime bass hero Dave Ellefson - seemed absolutely incapable of mailing it in.