It was packed to the gills at The Fillmore Charlotte on a recent August evening. Metalheads from multiple generations converged on the city’s favorite indoor venue for a sold out show in celebration of a whopping four decades of the one, the only, the incomparable Anthrax. Almost all were sweaty. Several were bloody. And with this being a Saturday night, plenty were drinking.“I’ve got a couple of really dumb questions for you tonight.” legendary guitarist and co-founder Scott Ian said to the crowd. “The first of which is, do you love thrash metal?!” The answer was unanimous. The pit swirled, bodies surfed atop the countless hands in the air, and heads banged with extreme prejudice. Oh yes, Anthrax was definitely in the building that night.
Anthrax has always been one of those bands that just does things their way, on their own terms. Since forming in New York City at the start of the 80s, the band has been essential in setting the foundation for thrash metal along with their fellow Big Four peers Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, helping pioneer the 21st century explosion of combining metal with rap and hip hop (collaborating and touring with Public Enemy, no less!), and to this day continues to add to their already indelible legacy. Look no further than the plethora of Gen Z kids who were in attendance at the show (their outstretched hands marked with Xs, many of them rocking old school battle vests) to see how Anthrax’s influence is still alive and well even four decades later.
Hardcore heavy hitters Hatebreed (say that five times fast) kicked off the evening with a nonstop rager of a set that got bodies moving right away. “Sore necks tomorrow!” frontman Jamey Jasta declared as the center of the crowd opened up and limbs began to fly. Originally slated to come through Charlotte with Parkway Drive before that tour was canceled, Hatebreed hopped on board the Anthrax tour and more than proved themselves to be an essential addition to the lineup. It wasn’t even 7:00 pm yet and the sun was still shining outside the venue doors, but that couldn’t stop the band from briefly turning The Fillmore into what felt like a raw and dirty underground show in the middle of the night.
The significance of touring alongside a band as important as Anthrax certainly wasn’t lost on Jasta, who remarked on the band’s inspiring career and mused about how there was now only “one holdout” from the Big Four that Hatebreed have yet to play with. Speaking of legends, the next act onstage was none other than Zakk Wylde and the rest of the boys from Black Label Society, who switched the mood up a bit with their distinct blend of sludgy, grudgy, groove-laden tunes. Blistering guitar solos and thunderous riffs left the audience in awe of the fine-tuned show. At one point, a guitar duel took place center stage between Wylde and Dario Lorina, with both musicians shredding away while holding their instruments behind their heads. Wylde - dressed in a custom Doom Crew Inc. jacket and a splendid yellow kilt, with arms and legs built like tree trunks and a tangle of long hair obscuring most of his face and hefty beard throughout the night - had few words to spare for the audience but held a truly commanding physical presence nonetheless.
What stood out the most to me as Anthrax finally took the stage and began kicking ass and taking names is just how heavy the band can really be when they want to. Charlie Benante and Frank Bello’s crushing rhythm section on songs like ‘Among the Living’ and ‘I Am the Law’ have never sounded quite as brutal as they did that fine evening. Modern live mixing is certainly a factor, sure, but it’s a testament to the strength of the songwriting that Anthrax songs from decades ago are still able to set off joyously violent pits and get people born after 2000 to sing at the top of their lungs. Of course, you just about need to be singing with everything you’ve got to keep up with Joey Belladonna. At nearly 62 years old, the iconic singer hasn’t missed a beat, wailing on songs like ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ with more intensity and personality than frontmen half his age if not younger. Belladonna doesn’t merely get the crowd involved, he straight up challenges them to rise to the occasion. If an Anthrax concert isn’t a madhouse right away, he always finds a way to turn it into one very quickly.
Fortunately, the Charlotte crowd that night didn’t need too much assistance in turning up the heat. “I feel it, man!” Belladonna happily told the rowdy bunch. “It’s Saturday night and it’s all about the fucking metal, yeah?” Something that’s always set Anthrax apart from their peers is how animated the group is once they’re playing together. Through their songs, their image, and their shows, the band brings a fun, punk attitude to the self-serious doom and gloom of the metal scene. Besides a self-celebratory intro video that had celebrities and musicians confessing their love for all things Anthrax, the band clearly isn’t so self-obsessed as to make their 40th Anniversary celebration all about themselves. ‘In the End’ was dedicated to fallen heroes like Ronnie James Dio, Dimebag Darrel, Vinnie Paul, Lemmy and others. “I really love that Anthrax and Black Label both have songs that are a tribute to the Abbott brothers.” Ian shared with the audience. “When we wrote that song it was about them but every night it also goes out to Meatloaf and Malcolm Young, Chris Cornell and all our heroes that we lost.”
“How are we so fucking lucky to have great fans like you guys? You guys got such passion for us, you make us feel good, you keep us going!” Belladonna hyped the crowd up as the night raged on. While the usual favorites were in the set, rarities like Persistence of Time deep cut ‘Keep It in the Family’ and the John Bush-era single ‘Only’ also got their due. “We all didn’t know what the fuck was going on for a couple of years, and in that time this planet went fucking batshit crazy. But tonight under this roof, Anthrax and Black Label Society and Hatebreed are here for one fucking reason and it unites all of us. And that’s metal!” Ian proudly shouted out to the thousands of diehard metalheads.
One sullen looking man to my left didn’t say a word or move much beyond nodding his head a bit throughout all three bands. That is, until the band ripped through ‘Antisocial’. It was like the guy was brought back to life. “That was badass.” he finally said as he turned to me. He was much livelier from then on. Impossible to argue with that. If you’re an Anthrax fan in any capacity or you’re curious to check out one of the best, most energetic, and undeniably killer metal bands to ever do the damn thing, this tour is not one to be missed. 40 years hasn’t slowed them down a bit. If anything, they sound better than ever. Here’s to 40 more.
Anthrax is currently finishing their 40th Anniversary Tour in the U.S. and continuing on to Europe. Check out the dates below.
08/26 – Coney Island Amphitheater, Brooklyn, NY
08/28 – The Fillmore, Philadelphia, PA
9/27 – 02 Academy, Birmingham, UK9/29 – Academy, Manchester, UK
9/30 – 02 Academy, Glasgow, UK
10/01 – 02 City Hall, Newcastle, UK
10/03 – 02 Academy, Leeds, UK
10/04 – Rock City, Nottingham, UK
10/06 – 02 Academy, Bristol, UK
10/08 – Brixton Academy, London, UK
10/11 – 013, Tilburg, Netherlands
10/13 – Bataclan, Paris, France
10/14 – Turbinenhalle, Oberhausen, Germany
10/15 – Werk 2, Leipzig, Germany
10/17 – Vega Main Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark
10/18 – Tradgarn, Gothenburg, Sweden
10/19 – Annexet, Stockholm, Sweden
10/21 – Tullisali, Oulu, Finland
10/22 – Logomo, Turku, Finland
10/23 – Kultuurikatel, Talinn, Estonia
10/25 – Stodola, Warsaw, Poland
10/26 – Batschapp, Frankfurt, Germany
10/27 – LKA Longhorn, Stuttgart, Germany
10/29 – Sono, Brno, Czech Republic
10/31 – Babra Negra, Budapest, Hungary
11/01 – Culture Factory, Zagreb, Croatia
11/02 – Arena, Vienna, Austria
11/04 – Alcatraz, Milan, Italy
11/05 – Komplex, Zurich, Switzerland