What happened at Megadeth's rare, intimate London show?

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London’s tiny 12 Bar Club is buzzing with excitement. Tonight, members of fan club the Megadeth Cyber Army are in town to watch tribute band Megadeth UK – and they’ve been promised an appearance from Megadeth themselves. Nobody can quite believe that Dave Mustaine, Dave Ellefson, Chris Adler and Kiko Loureiro will be squeezing onto the small stage of a 400-capacity venue to crank out songs using their tribute band’s gear.

“This was Dave Mustaine’s idea,” reveals bar manager Andre Joyzi, who also drums in Breed 77. “They didn’t have any crazy requirements, so it was fairly easy to agree on everything. Personally, this was a bit of a fairytale. I woke up one day with a message from Megadeth’s UK rep saying they were looking for a small venue in London to do their Cyber Army Convention and play a few songs… I was over the moon!”

Venue security reveal that the council have been down, concerned at how this modest club will handle the crowd for a band whose next gig is Wembley Arena. “We had meetings with them during the day to discuss all concerns and all was cool,” Andre assures us.

Fans from across the world mingle and share stories – a group of Americans get reacquainted with a couple of Romanians they met at a previous Megadeth fan club event, while one younger fan today made his first trip to London from the tip of Cornwall. Meanwhile, someone dressed as Vic Rattlehead prowls around the merch table.

Then the lights go down, and Megadeth UK open with a euphoric Sweating Bullets, rattling through a perfectly chosen setlist of fan favourites with barely concealed exuberance.

“I was apprehensive – it’s the ultimate acid test,” says Megadeth UK lead guitarist and vocalist Darryl Benson after the set. “But once we started playing, it was awesome and fun as usual. It was extra special to be well received by hardcore Megadeth fans from around the world, plus a few familiar faces from the UK.”

There are a few sound glitches throughout the night, including the moment that Megadeth arrive. Nobody can enter the 12 Bar without passing the front door or the stage, so the guys come striding briskly through the back of the crowd during Symphony Of Destruction to a chorus of surprised cheers. Mustaine cocks a quizzical eye to the stage before disappearing upstairs.

After Megadeth UK’s full-throttle set, the fans wait with bated breath to see if their heroes really will appear. With 30 minutes to go until curfew, the doorman tells us that Megadeth “might play a song, if they feel like it”. Some punters drift away to catch their last train home. Then, with minutes to spare, the real, actual Megadeth appear to an ecstatic reception that’s tempered with disbelief. Yes, they really are here, and yes, they really are that close. They carefully strap on their guitars and bang out storming new cut Fatal Illusion to an inevitable barrage of wobbling smartphones. The sense of joy and wonder is best summed up by Andre: “Megadeth onstage was something us at the 12 Bar will never forget,” he asserts. “Everyone had a huge smile on their face. It was a truly epic night for us and the crowd, and I’m sure for the band this must have been the most ‘punk rock’ they’ve been in years!”

Dave makes his way through Fatal Illusion

Dave makes his way through Fatal Illusion
(Image: © Phil Wallis)

“This is a dream come true,” agrees Megadeth UK drummer Richard Pond. “We knew about the event for many weeks and had to keep everything secret.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” singer Darryl adds. “It was amazing. These kind of things don’t happen. I would never have thought watching the Wake Up Dead video as a kid years ago, that I would end up sharing a stage with them, let alone have Dave use my guitar. When they took the stage, he said, ‘Thanks to Megadeth UK, great band, great job as usual.’ I feel like it finally gives us his stamp of approval!”

Backstage, we catch up with Dave himself. “My brain’s kinda whirring right now with all the great memories that just being here brings to mind,” he tells Hammer. “Small, intimate venues like this are really good to remind you where you come from, and to also be grateful for where you are now, because for so many bands, this is about the farthest they get. So I’m very grateful to be here, and I’m glad our fans are here tonight, too.”