By Mark Gromen
After months of virtual inactivity, on the concert front, local promoters seemed intent on raiding the pension funds of old-timers, booking ANTHRAX / EXODUS and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES / DRI on successive nights. While founding guitarist Scott Ian was absent a week earlier (What? ANTHRAX without Ian!) and drummer Charlie Benante missed several festival dates last year, the New York thrashers were intact once more, dishing out their Among The Living album, in its entirety. Speaking of missing members, nice to see EXODUS, back with guitarist/founder Gary Holt, who has been moonlighting in SLAYER for more than a year. Shame about starting a concert at 6pm, but guess they felt the old-timers (who were probably getting home from work) didn’t want to see the younger bands, just getting there in time for the two biggies. Too bad, as most old school ANTHRAX and/or EXODUS fans would probably enjoy HOLY GRAIL. Moreso than the acts who immediately followed the traditional minded newcomers.The trio of opening acts were each afforded a half hour, EXODUS 45 minutes and ANTHRAX, as much time as they wanted.
Under almost exclusively red lights (terrible for photography), the Grails enjoyed themselves, bashing out their brand of thrash tinged neo-classical metal. James Paul Luna remains the epicenter of activity, delivering a maniacal aerobics workout of fist thrusting, headbanging and high pitched wails. The title track from Ride The Void began with subtle, almost acoustic, strings, while 'My Last Attack' and the concluding 'Fight To Kill' rivalled the speed and intensity of what would come, in a few hours. Afterwards, they tore down their own equipment, then manned the merch booth. DIY cred!
Progressing through SHADOWS FALL (guitarist Jon Donais pulling extra duty, helping out the headliners), then MUNICIPAL WASTE, the crowd doubled in size (comprised largely of rotund middle aged guys, like the one in Volvo cap and Ultra-Violence DEATH ANGEL tee), the packed room indicative of a near sell-out. Certainly could have been housed at a larger venue... maybe next time? Holt wore a black Ruthies Inn shirt, still flying the flag/paying homage to one of (if not THE) home of 80s Bay Area thrash. Apart from the opening 'The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles', majority of the EXODUS set was culled from yesteryear. Almost from word go, crowd surfers breached the barricade. 'A Lesson In Violence' was seemingly made for Rob Dukes, a man possessed, while Holt (back on the smaller/ club circuit) stalked both sides of the stage and pressed up against the crowd. The HOLY GRAIL singer joined his Cali buds for 'Bonded By Blood', while the Wasted's Tony Foresta guested on 'Toxic Waltz'. Backlit in yellow, with blue/green highlights, the floor was a massive sea of overturned humanity. The floodgates open, 'Strike Of The Beast' was positively frenetic, before closing with 'Good Riddance'. With a smile, Dukes lovingly flipped the bird, before departing.
Third time witnessing the reunited Thrax within the last twelve months and one thing's evident, Joey Belladonna isn't (figuratively) looking over his shoulder anymore. Perhaps it was Benante's protracted absence that (finally) ingratiated himself to Scott Ian and the rest of the guys. Maybe it was the defection of guitarist Rob Caggiano or Ian missing a gig... whatever the cause Joey commands the entire stage, unafraid of possibly upstaging others. If anyone thinks than Scott Ian has abdicated his leaders, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Like their contemporaries, ANTHRAX relied heavily on the past, even beyond playing Among The Living (albeit not sequentially), which contains many of the biggest hits. Unlike recent jaunts, there was nothing from the debut and only 'Madhouse' off Spreading The Disease. Sort of strange, given that an AC/DC cover ('TNT') was included (off the recent Anthems Ep), as well their versions of 'Got The Time' (JOE JACKSON) and evening ender, 'Antisocial' (TRUST). Following the 'Among The Living' kick-off, it was straight into 'Caught In A Mosh', two giants back-to-back! 'I Am The Law' gave way to a pink/yellow lit 'NFL', the chorus eliciting a vocal response from the audience. 'A Skeleton In The Closet' saw Ian center stage, as Belladonna stood beneath the orange lights, arms stretched overhead, throwing a double set of horns. The bald/goateed mainstay guitarist moved around more than ever, not content to merely skank around in circles, as he so often does. Under yellow lights, the singer, in particular, appeared to have fun with 'TNT', long has it been rumored that Joey's heart (outside ANTHRAX) lies in more mainstream rock (a camp inwhich AC/DC are firmly entrenched), although multiple voices were employed here. Green bathed the stage for the aforementioned 'Madhouse', kids singing almost every word in unison. Blues, green and teal were the color scheme for an extended version of 'Indians'. As the final strains of 'Got The Time' echoed in the speakers, under reddish/pink lights, everyone said good night. Well, not really, as they were back, for the encore, beginning with an all-red, old school, heads down, volume pumped, 'Imitation Of Life'. With a short drum flare, the evening ended, much as it began, with a back-to-back pairing of hits: the always quirky pseudo-rap 'I'm The Man' and 'Antisocial'. Still a lot of bite in the old dog and a whole new generation seems interested too. Good stuff!
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