New York City’s favorite thrash metal band crushed a sold-out West Coast crowd on Wednesday night, as they played one of the final concerts at the soon-to-be-demolished House of Blues on the Sunset Strip.
Anthrax, always the blue collar band of the Big Four, absolutely packed the HOB to capacity for a two hour, 20 song set that featured old school classics, a brand new track, and a surprise encore appearance by the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy.
There was no opening act for Wednesday night’s solo show, meaning that fans had plenty of time to drink, chat and admire the vast array of Anthrax t-shirts being worn around the venue while awaiting the thrash quintet. The band hit the stage behind Dio’s Mob Rules as intro music, and mosh pits immediately opened up for the roaring guitars, hammering drums, and Joey Belladonna’s shockingly strong vocals.
I spoke with drummer Charlie Benante last week (read the full interview transcript here), and he was as equally excited about Anthrax’s new album as he was about the upcoming 30th anniversary re-issue of the Spreading The Disease album. Thus it was no surprise but a great treat when the band kicked off the night with the first three tracks off Spreading The Disease; A.I.R., Lone Justice, and Madhouse.
A handful of newer songs were featured as well; Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t from Worship Music and brand new track Soror Irrumator, which was the first time most fans in attendance were hearing it live. It was also the only song of the night which didn’t feature fans singing along at least as loudly as the band, but expect that to change by the next time Anthrax is back out on the road touring behind the new record and we’ve all have had a chance to learn the lyrics.
But the night truly belonged to Anthrax’s legendary 30+ year catalog, including another Spreading The Disease classic in Medusa, Across The River which hadn’t been played since the 80’s, and of course, the war dance-led Indians.
If you’re like me, it’s been quite awhile since you witnessed a actual Anthrax headlining set instead of an opening slot for a Mayhem Festival or Slayer tour, and it was a welcome opportunity to watch the guys bounce around their own stage, bantering with the crowd and enjoying the interaction with front row fans without the pressures of a timeslot or another band’s supporters.
For any longtime Anthrax fan in attendance though, the highlight of the night was unquestionably when bassist Frank Bello and guitarist Scott Ian took over vocals to rap through I’m The Man, and were then joined by Chuck D for Bring The Noise. Rap metal might have a bad reputation as a genre thanks to the late ‘90s, but the lighthearted and fully-on-point rhythms and rhymes of Anthrax and Chuck D took the energy in the House of Blues up to a new level of headbanging, hip hop euphoria before the night ended with the mosh-favorite Antisocial.
It’s a real tragedy that a venue as perfect as House Of Blues is going away, and doubly tragic that it will be replaced by yet another commercial development on the Strip. But for the thousand or so fans packing the floors, balconies and mosh pits last night, it was just a great excuse for an old school alcohol-fueled thrash metal party with Anthrax.
RIP House Of Blues Sunset Strip… Long Live Anthrax!