Any obsessive Megadeth fan already knows that, beginning part-way into 2013, the band has regularly opened their shows with the Rust in Peace favorite, “Hangar 18.” But did you know that late Pantera and Hellyeah drummer Vinnie Paul was the catalyst behind this for-good setlist changeup?
That’s what bassist David Ellefson revealed in a virtual panel at Headbangers Con earlier in December, as relayed through the Megadeth Facebook page.
Looking back to that pivotal moment where the band elected to stick one of their most iconic tracks at the very top of the set list, Ellefson pointed to the 2013 edition of the Gigantour, which featured Black Label Society, Hellyeah, Device, Newsted and Death Division.
“2013, we were on a Gigantour with Black Label Society & Hellyeah, and Vinnie Paul, who’s been a lifelong Megadeth fan and a good friend to us, he comes on the bus one day and he goes, ‘Man, y’all’s stage show is amazing, y’all’s light show is incredible. Man, y’all gotta be opening with ‘Hangar 18,'” recollected Ellefson.
“We went, ‘Really?’ Me and Dave kind of looked at each other,” the bassist continued, “and Vinnie goes, ‘Yeah, man. I’m telling you, man. That’s the one, ‘Hangar 18′, right there.’ So, that night, we went on stage and opened with ‘Hangar 18’, and it was, like, ‘Wow!’ It really had an excitement about it.”
That excitement remains present to this day as Ellefson further explained, “So, since then, even to this day, we open with ‘Hangar 18’, and now kind of almost in honor and memory of Vinnie. So we come out rocking, and it’s a great song.”
Starting the night off with “Hangar 18” also has other benefits, for both the band and the fans.
“It’s nice, because the front-of-house soundman can sort of get our mix together, ’cause there’s no vocals, so it kind of gives him a minute to mix the band,” Ellefson elaborated, “Of course, we do soundcheck, and stuff is digitally stored on the console these days anyway, but still, it kind of gives him a couple of minutes to get the mix of the band together before Dave starts singing the verse.”
Per setlist.fm, “Hangar 18” is the third-most performed song of Megadeth’s career, having been played live 1,459 times. See more of Megadeth’s live song stats further down the page and keep your fingers crossed that 2021 is the year we finally get that long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s Dystopia.