Review by Jason Guest and Photos by Rob Stanley
Life for Anthrax hasn’t been easy in recent years. After the re-union of the “classic” line-up for the Among The Living tour of 2005, Anthrax found themselves without a singer. Then, when they did find a singer that they thought fit the bill, it turns out that he didn’t and so not only were they again singer-less but they also had an album that looked like it would never be released. Whether or not you think that all of this was the result of some very bad decisions made by the band, Joey Belladonna’s return to the band, the long-awaited release of the brilliant Worship Music – with sales currently at over 100,000 – and their performances as part of the Big Four shows all seem to have put the band back on course. And tonight’s performance to a packed-out Civic Hall is from a band that having faced and fought all kinds of crap have emerged all the stronger for it.
With a set list comprised of both early and current Belladonna-era tracks, the band exude cool confidence. ‘Caught In A Mosh’ kicks the evening off and already, riff-chugger Scott Ian and bass-basher Frank Bello are metal thrashing mad balls of unstoppable energy. Rob Caggiano, his guitar locked tightly into Ian and Bello’s colossal riffs like he’s been in the band from day one, plays Spitz’s lead lines as if he’d written them himself and laces his own with all the fervour of a zombie apocalypse survivor battling it out in ‘Fight ’Em ‘Til You Can’t’. Though Charlie Benante’s absence is felt while he deals with “personal stuff” back home, stand-in drummer Jon Dette does a damned fine job of filling in, his double kick work and occasional-yet-subtle flourish reinforcing the impact of the tracks. And with Belladonna on fine form, he continually thanks the crowd for their huge response throughout their all-too-brief set. Long-time fans of 2000AD, like many, Anthrax were justifiably disappointed by the utterly atrocious (read: utterly shit) 1995 Stallone movie adaptation of Judge Dredd, the inclusion of ‘I Am The Law’ as set closer, maybe we can assume that they approve of this year’s much better movie. With the crowd a mass of hair, headbanging, and horns-aloft singing, all that was missing from their set was Belladonna’s head-dress for set-staple ‘Indians’.
Playing with this kind of power affirmed two things. First, Anthrax’s position in the echelon of the Big 4 – or Metallica and the other three – should be much higher. After all, Megadeth’s discography has more than its fair share of low points, and Metallica, like their inept drummer’s skills, have been sinking ever lower since the black album and are currently milking their status for all it’s worth. And secondly, this evening, Motorhead have a challenge on their hands.
Set list: Worship, Caught In A Mosh, Fight ’Em ‘Til You Can’t, Antisocial, Indians, Hymn 1, In The End, Madhouse, Got The Time, I Am The Law
In this world, only three things are certain: Death, taxes, and Motorhead. Motorhead – Lemmy in particular – have become icons, rock deities that have been canonised by their army of ardent fans to the point where they can do no wrong. But there’s something strangely unsettling about the idolatry that this band receive. The Lemmy film for instance, as interesting and funny as it is, feels more like an obituary than a biopic with the likes of Dave Grohl, Slash, and Lars Ulrich feverishly spilling their adulation like teens gushing over their dad’s secret porn stash. No doubt their army of ardent fans will gleefully hunt me down, torture me and kill me slowly for saying this, but for the last few years, Motorhead seem to have have been going through the motions and have been as predictable as their album-tour cycle.
When they walk on stage, Motorhead get the kind of response that Motorhead always get, the wave of adoration surging from the back to the front of the Civic and back again. With a set list that combines the old with the new as well as the unplayed – ‘Rock It’ from 1983’s Another Perfect Day gets an airing tonight – Motorhead delivers the usual and the crowd love every minute of it. Of particular note is Lemmy’s voice, his now-fag-ash-free growl is all the stronger and so the inherent power of the songs is communicated much more strongly than thay have been of late. But brandishing a Gibson bass instead of his trusty Rickenbacker, what’s apparent is the difference in Lemmy’s – and so with it, the band’s – sound. As loud as they always are, Motorhead without that distinctive trebly clank of the Rickenbacker somehow lacks that aggressive punch that we’re used to. There are Rickenbackers visible at the side of the stage so why his godliness chose to bash this plank is unclear, particularly when it has such an impact on the band’s sound. As far as the set goes, the solo spots from Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell, despite giving Lemmy a breather, are impressive but superfluous. Phil and Mikkey have long established themselves as fine musicians and so such displays are unnecessary. A couple more songs would’ve been much better and these guys have got a lot to choose from and a lot that this crowd would relish hearing. That ‘Bomber’ and ‘Ironfist’ are absent is a surprise to many and could perhaps have been included. If not, then there’s a vast array of tunes that they could easily introduce into the set that would get a more than warm response.
With such a profusion of material to draw from, Motorhead are in that position where they need never write any new material again and still play a set that would proffer the kind of might that Lemmy’s adulators could only dream of. But that’s not their style. That’d be cheating. Motorhead aren’t their own tribute act. But as consistent as Motorhead are and even though tonight wasn’t a competition, hands down – or horns up, if you like – Anthrax won. Motorhead’s set was underwhelming. In being almost exactly what we’ve come to expect, consistency does this band no favours. But at 67, Lemmy’s still boasts an impressive on-stage presence. Anyway, gotta go. There’s an angry mob of Motorhead T-shirts bashing on my door…
Set List: Sacrifice, Damage Case, I Know How To Die, Stay Clean, Metropolis, Over The Top, One Night Stand, Guitar Solo, The Chase Is Better Than The Catch, Rock It, The One To Sing The Blues, You Better Run, Going To Brazil, Killed By Death, Ace Of Spades
Encore: Orgasmatron, Overkill
And you can see more shots from the show here:
Fair review! I saw Motörhead at the Manchester Apollo last year, and was thoroughly impressed, but this Wolverhampton show felt a bit like Motörhead lite: lighter in material, energy and spectacle. Anthrax are one of the best live bands around, they were outstanding at Download and this show was very enjoyable too
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