Anthrax have been more regular visitors to this little part of the world than the vast majority of their counterparts, with this – their only UK headlining show, during a ‘night off’ from their support run with Motorhead – being their fifth time playing Northern Ireland. And, the sense of anticipation felt by their return after an eight-year gap had been building for weeks, with the gig sold out months in advance, even following its upgrade to the larger of the Limelight’s stages, and tickets changing hands for ridiculous amounts of money on the ye olde interweb thingummy.
Openers Gama Bomb, having travelled up from down the road in Newry to stand in for Revoker at the last minute, were merely a distraction for many. Their brand of classic thrash was well suited for the occasion, if somewhat pedestrian in both its content and delivery, and they did seem a little overawed to be in such illustrious company. Nevertheless, they knew their place, did their job and got as mostly positive reception from the growing crowd.
But, there was no doubt who everyone one was here to see, and the ‘Anthrax, Anthrax’ chants grew louder and louder as the Noo Yawkers’ stage time approached, nearing deafening levels as the lights dimmed and the band picked their way through the darkness to their stage positions – with the loudest cheers reserved for Scott Ian, who reciprocated with the widest grin he could manage as he led his boisterous troops into ‘Earth On Hell’.
One thing which became apparent painfully early, however, was Joey Belladonna’s voice – or, rather, painful lack of it. He struggled to hit the high notes on the likes of ‘Caught In A Mosh’ and ‘Indians’, concentrating very much on the lower end of his register – and even then he seemed to be in trouble, relying on the audience to carry the choruses. It may have been even worse: during ‘Deathrider’, he turned his back to the audience for a large portion of the song, and from my vantage point at the side of the stage it was difficult to make out whether or not his lips were actually moving. Such difficulties may have explained why Scott Ian seemed to do an awful lot more talking than I remember him ever doing before…
Having said all that, Belladonna is still a hugely charismatic frontman and definitely knows how to get an audience eating out of the palm of his hand. During ‘Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t’, he even reached forward into the photopit and “borrowed” PM photographer Marc’s camera to take a few audience shots (reproduced here, of course!).
Each and every song was met with bigger, crazier and more insane pits, as the audience needed no second invitation to get ‘Caught In A Mosh’, and ‘AntiSocial’, ‘Indians’ and ‘In My World’ in particular were met with frenzied sing-alongs.
The main set may have been surprisingly short – ten songs – leading many people to think that the curfew must have been dragged forward: but, no way were the ‘thrax ready to stop partying: instead, they merely took a short break to allow their trademark ‘Worship Music’ pentagrams to be replaced with photos of Dimebag Darrell and Ronnie James Dio – a nice touch, as the first encore started with ‘Among The Living’ before the place was turned into a virtual ‘Madhouse’.
But, there was one song everyone was waiting on, and they were not disappointed as the magnificent ‘I Am The Law’ saw the place go absolutely mental, despite Belladonna’s vocal problems, before another short gap and the band returned to finish off with a terrific version of ‘Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)’.
They may be getting older, and, as I say, Belladonna’s voice may croaking a bit – and Scott Ian may have been restricted by the slightly smaller stage – but Anthrax still know how to throw a party, and probably would have continued it long into the note if it had not been for the curfew (which they did manage to creep over by a good ten minutes!). Scott Ian was clearly heard to say they’ll be back next year: we’ll be holding him to that \m/
Among The Living
Got The Time
I Am The Law
Anthrax play the following dates:
Wednesday November 14th – Guildhall, Portsmouth (supporting Motorhead)
Thursday Novemver 15th – Bournemouth International Centre, Bournemouth (supporting Motorhead)
Friday November 16th – The Academy, Dublin (headline)
Saturday November 17th – O2 Academy, Brixton (supporting Motorhead)
Sunday November 18th – Colston Hall, Bristol (supporting Motorhead)