Anthrax – Live Review – Leeds O2 Academy
By Victoria Holdsworth, October 2022
The Leeds O2 was about to be the loudest and grittiest it has ever been – and to get the stage warmed up and the foundations rumbling, there were two solid support sets from Municipal Waste and Sworn Enemy. But you can feel the tension mounting – and as the crew hands drop the white screen emblazoned with the Anthrax pentagram that covers the stage, the O2 metal heads get ready to rock.
The lights black out to a humongous roar from the audience, and a short film is projected onto the curtain, of various musicians and celebrities who have been inspired by Anthrax over the past 40 years. The younger patrons cheer as Corey Taylor flashes up on screen, whilst the older ones applaud the iconic Mike Patton (not sure why Dee Snider was booed so loudly though – please enlighten me).
The curtain drops, and the explosion begins!
Opening with the relentless strength of ‘Among The Living’, ‘Caught in a Mosh’ and ‘Madhouse’, Joey Belladonna, stalking the stage, taking in everyone’s adoration as he nails every single note with such force and power, against the rollicking guitar work of Scott Ian.
After a face-melting trio like that, both Joey and Scott humbly thank everyone for coming before discussing the past three years of hell with the world going crazy. The adoration is a two way street throughout the entire set tonight, and these hardened thrash metallers are just all full of love.
A call goes out to the crowd for people to get involved with circle pits and crowd surfing, as Belladonna lets out a shriek that would put a banshee to shame, ripping into ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’, from the 1984 album Fistful of Metal. The audience responds with gusto, and from the balcony it looks like absolute carnage, bodies hurling everywhere, all in good spirits it would seem for now, until ‘Keep It in the Family’ kicks in with its devastating basslines, fuelling the pit circles to get bigger and more aggressive.
“Swirling masses of dark riffs”
Unfortunately, this meant that some older generations on the edge of these pits get quite a bashing, however the young man who objected to being gently shoved away by a considerably older gentleman was deliberately headbutted full on in the face, sending claret flying everywhere. The staff were quick to deal with this, and no further serious incidents occurred.
Joey calms down the audience and asks them to help him out with ‘Antisocial’, the Trust cover, from the 1988 album State of Euphoria. This is when things really get cranked up all the way past 11! For me, this tune epitomises the pure genius of Anthrax, who have managed to carve a career from many genres of music to fit perfectly alongside their thrash prototype. The punk driven beats of ‘Antisocial’ mix with chopping guitars and are woven into some pretty heavy rhythmic riffs and that’s so deep seated a sound that it makes your ribs rattle.
An absolute crowd pleasing banger was to ignite the crowd further with ‘I Am The Law’, about the 2000 AD character Judge Dredd, which some say is the inspired thrash classic that propelled Anthrax to greatness. The arrangement of this song is impressive, as are the vocals. It is one of the best in their repertoire.
An instrumental, ‘Hymn 1’ hears the bells toll, as the entire O2 goes dark for the juggernaut about to hit everyone head on. ‘In The End’ is a testimonial powerhouse of a tribute song, which pays homage to the late Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell. It is pure swirling masses of dark riffs and heavy stomping bass, all paired together magically with Joey’s vigorous, ranging vocals creating a beauteous and epic masterpiece of sound.
‘Medusa’ from Spreading the Disease, released back in 1985 is a particularly special blast from the past for Joey Belladonna as he explains: “This is from a special album, it’s special to me at least as it was my first Anthrax recording.” And he prompltly knocks it out of the park like it was yesterday, swathed in green lights, prowling across every inch of the stage, taking in every moment and every movement of the crowd, and judging from the smile on his face, he is loving every second of it.
Scott takes a moment to introduce the next tune, and to his recollection he doesn’t think that Anthrax have actually played this next song in Leeds before, but he explains he could be wrong: “It’s been a long career and I can’t remember everything, so no doubt I’ll check the internet afterwards and you’ll all tell me I’m wrong.”
Only released in 1993 from The Sound Of White Noise album, the vocals provided by John Bush again show the band’s diversity, whilst still retaining their original sounds. Metallica frontman James Hetfield called it “a perfect song” and I would have to agree with him. Another masterpiece, and it sounds even better with the line up they have tonight. Starting with a fusillade of drums from the extremely talented Charlie Benante, which hit every intended target, the entire building was shaking, and as soon as the rest of the band unleashed their onslaught of guitars and bass, to a stomping charge around the stage, the entire crowd was just going full throttle.
Whilst Joey takes a short break, Scott and Bello take the vocals for the next offering from the 1991 compilation album Attack Of The Killer B’s. The cover of Public Enemy’s ‘Bring The Noise’ is definitely one of my all time favourites, and even without the awesome Chuck D, this just rocked the biggest smile on everyone’s faces, and I swear they just keep getting louder and louder.
‘Indians’, an Anthrax set list regular, sees Belladonna stride back on stage and take the mic, to deliver a lyrically charged and cleverly crafted song. Rhythmically hypnotising guitar work from Jon Donais and Scott Ian, and a bassline which keeps up such a throbbing intensity throughout the whole song, you almost feel like you are going to explode.
The guys don’t miss a beat and go straight into the encore, starting with one of the most famous Anthrax intros ever, with a slaughtering bassline from Frank Bello, and the marauding punk riffs to accompany it, this Joe Jackson cover, ‘Got The Time’, sees Scott encourage the crowd to give it their all, whether it be a circle pit, or crowd surfing, or ‘Whatever the f*ck you wanna do!” There was definitely some seismic tremors occurring in the O2, and although the staff did a great job keeping most people relatively safe, I don’t think they were quite ready for Anthrax fans.
Last song of the night is ‘Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)’ which was written about actor John Belushi, who died of a drug overdose on March 5, 1982, and is filled with audience participation from beginning to end, with deafening vocals screamed from every lung.
The guys all gather to greet their sweaty mass of fans at the front of stage and thank everyone for coming out, assuring us all they will be back as soon as possible with some new material coming too, before the familiar sounds of Ronnie James Dio ring out across the speakers, with the Rainbow classic ‘Long Live Rock And Roll’, as they animatedly leave the stage, clearly having enjoyed the set.
You can say what you like about Anthrax, but not only have they remained true to themselves all these years, they have also remained loyal to their fan base, and tonight they proved why they are still top of their game, forty years on.