Live Report: The Big Four Festival—Updated

Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax shared a stage for the first time in the U.S. at the Big Four Festival in Indio, California, yesterday. Members of each band joined forces onstage during Metallica’s first encore–as they had done in Sofia, Bulgaria, last year–to play Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” Metallica frontman James Hetfield, thinking about how long his band, Slayer, Anthrax, and, by proxy, Megadeth have been around,  introduced the set by saying, “Can you believe it? Thirty years, man. I don‘t know how many of you have been around that long, you know? It doesn‘t matter; you’re here right now to see the Big Four, and we’re getting prepared for a big jam, all right? It’s pretty important.” The difference this time was that Slayer guitarist Kerry King, who had been absent the first time because he was editing his band’s performance for worldwide broadcast, joined in on the jam.

From left: Megadeth's David Ellefson, Anthrax's Frank Bello, Slayer's Kerry King, and Metallica's James Hetfield perform "Am I Evil?" at the Big Four Festival, April 23, 2011

The other big surprise of the day occurred at the end of Slayer’s set. On Thursday, the group had announced that Exodus guitarist Gary Holt would again be filling in for Jeff Hanneman, who has had to sit out a number of shows beginning in February after contracting a flesh-eating disease possibly caused by a spider bite. Holt and the band left the stage after playing “Snuff,” but when the band returned to play “South of Heaven” and set closer “Angel of Death,” Hanneman came onstage instead of Holt. The guitarist was wearing a long-sleeve shirt, covering his left arm, while his right arm remained uncovered, showing the scars where he had received treatment. The band made no references to either guitarist or Hanneman’s condition during the set. The guitarist was later quoted as saying backstage, “I’m the happiest man in the world.”

Jeff Hanneman, performing with Slayer at the Big Four Festival

Beyond that, the most striking part of the day was the sincere statements each band made about how special the event was. The good vibes each band talked about having about each other in Revolver’s Big Four special issue (available here) have carried over from their Europe run last year. During Metallica’s set, Hetfield thanked not only the Big Four, but the thousands of metal bands who have contributed to music’s history. The most telling part about the good vibes that night, however, came during the last words uttered at the event. As Metallica concluded taking their bows, Lars Ulrich told the audience, “I can’t think of any better place to play this first Big Four show!”

Anthrax’s Set List:

Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
Among the Living
Fight ’Em ’Til You Can’t
I Am The Law

Megadeth’s Set List:

In My Darkest Hour
Hangar 18
Wake Up Dead
Poison Was the Cure
Sweating Bullets
Head Crusher
A Tout Le Monde
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

Slayer’s Set List:

World Painted Blood
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Dead Skin Mask
Silent Scream
Seasons in the Abyss
South of Heaven (with Jeff Hanneman)
Angel of Death (with Jeff Hanneman)

Metallica’s Set List:

Creeping Death
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ride the Lightning
Fade to Black
All Nightmare Long
Sad But True
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Master of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman
Am I Evil? (With the other members of the Big Four)
Hit The Lights
Seek And Destroy

Big Four photo: | Jeff Hanneman:


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  • Johnny Lee (No B.S. Guitar)

    Still wishing I coulda been there for this. It sounds like it was THE biggest metal event in history. The biggest names in metal. All there. Well, maybe it’s possible I’ll catch the “Big 3” that’s rumored to be lined up for the Olympics I believe: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and The Sex Pistols (the remaining members of those bands) all in one show. Should be another good one.


  • Nick Balliet

    It was insane, beyond insane, greatest show ever


  • X3blondes

    Best concert of my life, hands down! I came up from Seattle and it was worth every mile and every last penny! I hope they continue on!!! I would go anywhere in America to see them!

  • Chia612

    Slayer was the mightiest of the Big 4, they should have headlined. I love Metallica, but Slayer’s set was brutal.

  • HeavyMetalMerchant

    Good to see Hanneman back on board, judging by that nasty scar on his arm they certainly weren’t bullshitting about his condition. Lets hope this big 4 makes it to Australia!

  • Tgarcia28

    I guess if you watched the DVD Big 4 from Sofia-wish the set list was revamped a ton more! Slayer jammed and did the most revamp of the set list – totally awesome!