If you don’t live under a rock, you should probably already know that The Big 4 are set to play a once in a lifetime show at Yankee Stadium in September. It will be something that the attendees can tell their grandkids about. Like when Zeppelin reformed for that one off show in ’05, or like Elvis’ ’68 comeback special, it will be one of those events you just had to be there for. You could be one of the select few people who saw the Big 4 perform together on the East Coast... or the West Coast or in Germany, or Sweden, or Italy, or England, or France...
Super exclusive, one time only.
What’s that? There are rumours of an Australasian tour too? Oh... well... hrmmm. I guess if you miss out on this one, you can always wait till they come around next summer or whatever.
Now, I was under the impression that a once in a lifetime event was just that, something that occurs once. I know that this is the “me” generation, and you’ve all got to have your slice of the pie, but these shows lose more of their impact every time a new one is announced. What’s so special about seeing the Big 4 after they’ve played every other arena in every other city? Surely there’s a limit to the patience of even the most diehard fans willing to pay the outrageous ticket prices. How can you justify to yourself shelling out upwards of $200 to go see what is essentially a bunch of bands way past their prime cash in on their legacy?
Now, I’m no economics wizard, but where I’m from, $180 is enough to get me a festival ticket. That’s over 40 bands in one day, 10 times the amount you’re getting for a Big 4 concert. “But Mattassacre”, I hear you whine; “I bet none of those bands are Slayer or Megadeth, are they?” No, they aren’t, you little cockswipe, and I’m fine with that. You want to know why? It’s because I’ve already seen Slayer, and the rest of the Big 4, multiple times, and let me tell you, they ain’t getting any better. I shouldn’t need to elaborate on how terrible Metallica has gotten over the years; Megadeth seems content with releasing sub-par material every two years and upholding the record for most dull live show in the world; Slayer is literally falling apart at the seams, what with Tom Araya’s neck surgery and Hanneman’s massively infectious spider bite that put him out of commission, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerry King spontaneously combusted on stage. And, Anthrax... Anthrax is just sad. Poor Joey Belladonna, it couldn’t be any more obvious that they’ve wheeled him out as a last, last resort and that Scot Ian desperately wants John Bush back in the band. Going off the two songs from the new album they’ve released, I may as well just buy myself the Damned Things album and be disappointed now, instead of later.
Now we’re getting to the root of the issue, how is it that these bands can continue to suck on an increasing scale, yet rake in the cash like they’re personally coming up to each and every one of you and shaking you down for every cent you’ve got?
It’s because they’ve all got a safety net. They are all part of the Big 4.
That’s why something as contrived as World Painted Blood can be critically laundered as one of the best albums of the year (even St Anger got glowing reviews, initially). That’s why these bands can sell out arenas in a matter of minutes, despite increasingly poor live performances. They’ve been given a free pass to suck, because they’re the bands that wrote Master of Puppets, Rust in Peace, Reign in Blood and Among the Living.
Honestly, I’ve always hated the whole concept of a Big 4, for several reasons.
Firstly, it’s the kind of concept that could only have been come up by a marketer. Some little dweeb working for a label in 1987, looking at a chart of record sales, circling the 4 highest and going “those are the best bands of the genre”. You’re fooling yourself if you think the Big 4 was determined by anything other than record sales, and not something more fruitful to the metal scene like influence (seriously, when was the last time you heard a band say they were majorly influenced by Anthrax rather than Kreator or something).
Secondly, now you have every retarded half-wit writing their own misinformed Big 4 list for every fucking sub-genre conceivable and arguing over how Chimera should be in the Big 4 of modern metal or some shit.
Thirdly, and most importantly, it’s created something of a Glass Ceiling in thrash, in that it allows the Big 4 to sponge off their own legacy and grow creatively impotent, while lesser thrash bands working their asses off, creating some of the best material of their careers and performing like it’s still 1984, get completely overlooked.
This image came up when I googled images of The Big 4. Go figure.
So, if the Big 4 happen to announce more tour dates (which looks like a fairly certain thing at this point) and you find yourself in a position where you’re able to attend, I ask you to simply think about it before you take out a second mortgage on one of the tickets. If you consider yourself a fan of quality live music, I urge you to save your cash. If however, you’re content with seeing a bunch of guys pat each other on the back and celebrate how good they used to be, that’s fine with me, you can sit next to Mr and Mrs Ford Mondeo and listen to them lose their shit when Enter Sandman comes on.