For 35 years, Anthrax has delivered the goods in such a way that you know what you're going to get when you attend one of their concerts.
A slew of mosh pits. Riffs that'll make you break out in a war dance. Timeless, heavy songs. All in the name of rambunctious fun.
Such was the case Saturday night as Anthrax opened for Lamb Of God before a sold-out South Texas crowd of 3,000 at the Concrete Street Amphitheater in Corpus Christi. On the night before the Super Bowl, it was Anthrax scoring big during a 50-minute set that, while filled with many of the tunes longtime fans know word-for-word, also included a pair that haven't officially dropped in album form.
"Breathing Lightning" and "Evil Twin," both from the upcoming Feb. 26 release of For All Kings, made their Lone Star State live debuts interspersed among anthems "Caught in a Mosh" and "Indians" plus 2011's "Fight 'em Till You Can't" and "In the End," the ode to the late Ronnie James Dio and "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott (see setlist in slideshow). Bassist Frank Bello discussed the upcoming album, looked ahead to the band's South Texas swing that also included Monday night in Austin at ACL Live at The Moody Theater and shared other topics in an exclusive interview last month (listen here). Vocalist Joey Belladonna, meanwhile, plugged the new record once, and rhythm guitarist Scott Ian did so twice, including his introducing "Evil Twin" by bellowing of the audience, "Do you like thrash metal? You're welcome!"
A slight surprise occurred behind the drums, where journeyman and frequent Anthrax fill-in Jon Dette did the honors for Charlie Benante, who discussed with AXS his plight with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome when Anthrax headlined the second stage of San Antonio's River City Rockfest last May 24 (watch here, coverage here). Saturday's show marked 22 days since this tour kicked off, and with Benante having said that he can typically play only three weeks at a time nowadays, it's possible his condition flared up again at the start of the tour or that he's simply saving himself for other performances in the near future.
Either way, the southpaw Dette was on point throughout Anthrax's classic and freshest material. While "Breathing Lightning" has more melody than most numbers in Anthrax's 35-year arsenal, "Evil Twin" delivers the punch from the get-go and doesn't let up. If you were at the concert at the Concrete and have only received those two appetizers of the new record, fear not. Neither of those are the best songs on the album.
Bello had said in the aforementioned interview he wanted to mix up the set more than recent tours. That didn't occur, unless you count the omission of another 1987 mainstay "I Am the Law." In fact, other than the two new offerings, the only difference from the River City Rockfest show eight months earlier was that this time Anthrax did not play a song from 1985's Spreading the Disease as they did with "Madhouse."
But so what? Anthrax not only has got the time, they've stood the test of time, exemplifying every time out they're not even close to losing a step or mellowing like some bands from their era may be guilty of on occasion. Their intensity on stage and quality of music are huge reasons they're in thrash's renowned Big 4 club. And why they'll go down as one of the all-time kings of metal whenever the hourglass decides it has no more lightning to breathe.