Although in the last three or four years Bucharest has started showing up on the tour map of many notable artists, it’s not every day that you get to see all “big fours” (Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica) on the same stage, on the same day. Historical events have happened before on a festival stage in Romania’s capital city – the first one that pops into my head is the Marilyn Manson/Alice Cooper double duet from 2007’s last day of B’estival – but a full day of good old school speed/thrash metal attracted an even larger crowd at the venue, one of the biggest I’ve seen at a Romanian festival so far.
They had a very short performance (about 45 minutes), but they were one of the most energetic bands from the festival’s line-up. Even though they have been around for about 30 years, this was their first gig in Romania, and they performed at around 4:30 in the afternoon, when most of the audience was still waiting outside the venue, in a huge line, which made warming up the crowd a difficult task. And yet, after the first song, "Caught in a Mosh", they managed to gather a large headbanging audience in front of the stage and acted not like they were opening (which technically, they were), but like they absolutely ruled the place.
Next up in the line-up, Dave Mustaine & co. slowed the pace a bit. They played both songs from their older albums, such as “Rust in Peace”, and their newer ones, like “Endgame”, which was released last year, and just like Anthrax, they made some feel nostalgic, and others sorry that they hadn’t been born twenty years earlier. Because the crowd we saw at these two gigs was so different from you’d expect, a mixture of old rockers packed in leather, kids with Slayer T-shirts, half-naked, beer bellied wannabes and people who had showed up at the festival simply because it was “the big thing” happening in Bucharest and it could not be missed, although they’d never listened to any of these bands before.
Fortunately for everyone, rock fans are loyal to their idols, and Slayer’s performance proved that once more. Although most of their audience was already waiting for Metallica, Slayer managed to get people’s attention without using all the old tricks in the book (talking in Romanian for 5 minutes, like Manowar does every time they perform there, or preparing an elaborate show with lights and vampire teeth, like Metallica did later during Sonisphere’s day 2). It was a full-throttle experience that made Anthrax and Megadeth’s performances seem, by comparison, soft and fluffy. “Are you ready for war?” they growled at the audience. And ready they were, for “War Ensemble”, “Jihad”, “Mandatory Suicide”. Slayer was one of the few bands that did not headline the festival, but came back on the stage for a couple more songs, “South of Heaven” and “Raining Blood”.
At their third performance in Romania, Metallica already had a clue of what to expect from the audience there. They knew that people like being talked to, that they love a good, theatrical show and an inspiring sing along. So they did it all. Kirk Hammet had a Dracula – decorated guitar. Hetfield wore vampire teeth, and, although they usually brag about how much they hate Bram Stoker's fictional character, most Romanians present secretly loved that. They also loved all the old songs Metallica never forgets to play, such as "Fade to Black", "Master of Puppets", "Nothing Else Matters" (hence the heart warming sing along), "Enter Sandman" or "Seek and Destroy" (when they returned for an encore).
What they didn’t love was the so often recurring Bucharest/Budapest confusion that you really wouldn’t expect from a band that’s already performed in that city twice. Luckily for him, Hetfield pronounced “Budapest” in a way that could be sounded a bit like “Bucharest”, and then quickly tried to fixed things by calling the people of Bucharest every five minutes until the end of the show.
Judging by the huge number of people present at Sonisphere’s day 2, in spite of a ticket that cost about half of the minimum wage, it seems that a good old speed/thrash marathon, accompanied by a nice, cold beer, even though the festival was held in the middle of the city, on concrete instead of grass - was something that rock fans had really been waiting for. Sonisphere did not disappoint - neither the public, nor the artists, who were welcomed properly, like the gods of metal that they are.