Anthrax, Testament, Death Angel- Vic Theatre- Chicago, IL 9/27/12
This tour package featuring legends of the original thrash scene has already made several stops in the midwest over the last couple of years but for whatever reason we were just never able to review the show. Knowing this might be the last time to catch the three bands together we set out to make the laborious drive to Chicago to see the show which, despite early setbacks, ended up being one of the best concerts ever. Traffic to Chicago from Rockford is always a nightmare ( the reason we generally go to shows in Milwaukee) and this time out was no exception plus there was some typical drama at will call and we were only able to shoot photos of Anthrax for whatever reason.
Death Angel took the stage a few minutes early and only played a short set but sounded amazing. The band’s energy level was jacked up to the nines and we got to hear “Thrashers” and the classic “Mistress of Pain” from outside while dicking around trying to get the photo pass cleared last minute. Giving up and going inside to check out the show was the better choice and the band already had the intimate crowd at the Vic in the throes of old school metal heaven. Vocalist Mark Osegueda always had one of the more unique voices in thrash (along with Joey Belladonna) and while he and guitarist Rob Cavestany are the sole members of the classic era lineup it made little difference as the band was exceptionally tight. Cavestany wielded his Jackson like a weapon cutting us all into little bits and setting the tone for a night that could ultimately be defined as a shredder’s dream come true. Death Angel mixed in a few newer songs from the band’s post 2000 efforts and a snippet from the title track of their debut “The Ultra- Violence” before their work of warming up the crowd was complete.
Despite Chicago being a second home to Anthrax there were a huge contingent of fans there to see both Death Angel and Testament. With the latter getting set to come onstage the place already felt like it was a 100 degrees inside and dripping with aggression, anticipation and obviously, sweat. Testament’s new album Dark Roots of Earth is their second amazing album from the reformed lineup and it’s opening track “Rise Up” was a great choice as a set opener while the cover art from the record made for a tremendous stage backdrop. I was glad to see other new songs from the album make it into the show like the title track and single/video “Native Blood” including one of the best moments of Testament’s set, “True American Hate”. Drummer Gene Hoglan, bassist Greg Christian and guitarist Eric Peterson are all spectacular musicians and Chuck Billy is a beast of a singer but it is honestly hard to imagine how the band ever carried on without Alex Skolnick. If you’ve seen the band recently (or EVER) you know exactly what I am talking about as his abilities are completely and totally without peer. Testament is a disturbingly good band and seemed to be in good spirits in Chicago.
The crowd knew the new material as well as they knew classics like “Into The Pit” and “Practice What You Preach” which is always a good sign. The only complaint I could make is that “Souls of Black” and “Electric Crown” were not part of the set but hey, there’s always another gig. Both Death Angel’s Osegueda and Chuck Billy also seemed to suffer in the Vic Theatre’s muddy sound as the mix was heavy on bass and high end but low on the actual vocals, something that apparently was fixed before Anthrax hit the stage.
Now, I’ve never personally seen a bad Anthrax show in my life dating back to the late eighties and knew this would be no exception since drummer Charlie Benante now lives in Chicago and was returning to the kit for this show (he sometimes doesn’t play during extended touring runs due to his young daughter).
Having said that, I didn’t know they’d be THIS goddamn good. Opening up with “Fight Em Til You Can’t” they absolutely killed on this particular evening. If you saw the band’s recent gig at Castle Donnington on T.V. you saw how high energy the guys are and tonight’s show was performed with the exact same level of energy which sounds ridiculous. The gray hair in Scott Ian’s beard and lines on Joey Belladonna’s face do not affect Ian’s breakneck speed or Joey’s perpetual teenager sense of fun and Anthrax 2012 is just as good as they were on the Clash of the Titans tour or more likely, better. The set featured two more songs from the Worship Music album but focused more on a revamped list of classics which included the likes of “Be All, End All”, “Among the Living” and the theatre leveling “In My World”. Charlie kicked major ass and seemed incredibly focused the entire night, playing without error although we still managed to catch a smile or ten from him behind the kit. Frankie Bello is the heart and soul of Anthrax and not even for a split second did it appear he wasn’t having the time of his life. Every performer talks about how they live for the moments onstage but few actually give off the contact high of bliss that Joey and Frank give back to the crowd.
As far as individual performances go it must be said that Rob Caggiano really impressed the shit outta me with his playing. He manages to put his own spin on many of Dan Spitz’s solos and never once did a note feel out of place. I will admit to standing directly in front of him and being blown away to the point that I am now going to seek out his work in general aside from the group. Frankie and Scott have often said in interviews that the overall point of the band was simply to put smiles on people’s faces and send them home happy. By the time the guys left the stage after “Got the Time” and “I Am The Law” there were a lot of happy motherfuckers. I wish more bands bothered to put together tours as good as this one was where they clearly were well aware of giving the crowd exactly what they want. Bravo Death Angel, bravo Testament and bravo Anthrax. Metal fans owe you a bigass beer next time any of you roll through town.