Priest and Anthrax rock the MARK

 

By Alun Thomas

 

Just three years ago Judas Priest and Anthrax toured the U.S. to less than spectacular venues, both with vocalists (“Ripper” Owens and John Bush) who had replaced their more illustrious counterparts (Rob Halford and John Belladonna). Both bands were at a low point commercial- wise, particularly Priest, the once metal kings reduced to headlining clubs with a fine vocalist who never gained real acceptance.

Three years later both acts are back on the road, with Halford and Belladonna both back at the helm and enjoying new leases on life. I was openly critical of Anthrax’s decision to bring Belladonna back, as I felt Bush had been slighted, but I was more than curious to see how he and the reformed 1984-1991 lineup performed on October 2nd at The MARK Of The Quad Cities in Moline. Priest I had seen at Ozzfest last year. This time around I was hoping for a few surprises. Foolish? Yes.

Prior to the show I interviewed Anthrax bassist Frank Bello, who also happened to be accompanied by Belladonna, which made for engaging conversation while they watched the New York Jets fall to the Baltimore Ravens. Bello made a convincing case for the reunion (which I will document here at a later date) and said their performance would prove that, as they have been doing for the last seven months.

Surprisingly the venue was barely half full as Anthrax took the stage, a fact which never changed even after Priest began their set. The crowd was comprised of human beings who I suspect have trouble functioning in real life, most apparent victims of near fatal car crashes, which left them sporting mullets, black jeans and white sneakers and fat beer guts. Hunt me down and string me up, but never have I witnessed such a bigger collection of rejects in one building.

 Anthrax opened with “Among The Living”, the band older but just as potent musically. The set was comprised totally of vintage 80’s favorites, the letdown being the inclusion of covers “Got The Time” and “Antisocial”. While classics like “Indians”, “N.F.L.”, “Caught In A Mosh”, “Medusa”, Madhouse” and “I Am The Law” were met with appreciation, they could have squeezed in “Lone Justice”, Gung Ho” or “Panic” at the expense of the covers. The crowd was slow to catch on to the band’s vintage thrash heroics, but once they did, gave them the reception they deserved. Scott Ian seems to have rediscovered his guitar tone after a decade of it going MIA and Danny Spitz looked happy to be on stage again, a decade after being frozen out.

The lack of Bush tracks was to be expected but hopefully Anthrax doesn’t play themselves into too much of a timewarp in the future. Bello insisted to me that he is more concerned with being current than living in the past and that playing “Among The Living” isn’t his desire every night, but to restablish the band as a unit again, right now it is necessary. The power of Anthrax has always been undisputed and remains so, regardless of who is in the band. The main thing is they appear genuine in their devotion to their cause and the hostility of the past is now gone. A job well done.

 Judas Priest on the other hand successfully conquered their reunion tour on last year’s Ozzfest, so the mammoth tour to support “Angel Of Retribution” sought to capitalize on Ozzfest’s success. The main worry I had was a similar setlist to Ozzfest which was all too real. The addition of “Solar Angels”, Turbo Lover”, “I’m A Rocker” and “Riding The Wind” was the only real eye opener, while the new album was highlighted with “Judas Rising”, “Worth Fighting For”, “Revolution” and “Hellrider”. Elsewhere it was Ozzfest repeated: “Beyond The Realms Of Death”, “Painkiller”, “Victim Of Changes”, “Desert Plains”, “Breaking The Law”, “Living After Midnight”, “You”ve Got Another Thing Comin”, “Electric Eye … I can’t go on.

 Priest are so good at what they do that even with the familiarity it works, with over 30 years under their belt of metal classics there is no excuse for it to be another way. The volume was deafening and the heaviness was at times astounding. The rendetion of “Victim Of Changes” was met with a standing ovation, while “Painkiller” was a definite assault on the senses. The arena, even half full, was gracious in its applause for the titans of the genre, particulalry Halford, the man a true legend. While it’s true the overplayed favorites hinder proceedings, the charisma and stage presence of the band wins out.In the future consideration should be given to some more obscure numbers. I grow weary of the shit casual fan winning out.

 This night the true metal fan did win out, however. With both bands in the best form of their lives in a mediocre era, this tour should be essential viewing for any metal fan. As the years progress, the chances become slimmer, but at the same time age means nothing. That’s been proven by bands older than this pair. I’m taken aback that the show didn’t sell out in that regard. I thought Priest and Anthrax might have seen fans clamoring. It didn’t seem so, but for those few normal enough to realize it, they were the victors on this night.