You’d assume that at this point, the staff at The Forum know what they’re doing. The place has concerts nonstop all year, and clearly knows how to get things moving. Unfortunately, half an hour after the doors had notionally opened the queue to get into this gig snaked down the side of the Forum, then almost all the way down a side street; it was massive, and barely moving.
Bearing that in mind, spare a kind thought for the good folks of The Raven Age, who were opening, and clearly started on time despite the admissions debacle. Apparently a metalcore band, they seemed a bit on the lightweight side, but were doing their best to rile up a Forum floor that was about 1/3 full. The response was muted, which is a shame – they have some good tracks, but would probably be better put into a melodic alternative metal category; not really headbanging stuff, which might have made for a bit of a mismatch.
The crowd for this concert – this was clearly a headbanging crowd. Denim patch vests, plenty of long hair, and a certain level of out of shape middle aged rockers in the audience. It was a proper old school metal lot that you don’t see as much as you used to; combats tucked into boots, leather vests, all it needed was some mullets and a Disco Sucks t-shirt to make it a solid 80’s evening. It wasn’t all classic metal though – a shout out has to go out to the man in the pink unicorn costume who was in the pit for the entire concert and managed to escape unharmed.
If you’ve not seen Anthrax live before you might not realize it, but there’s actually a lot of room for audience participation, and Belladonna knows how to milk that for all it’s worth. He had a great crowd to work with – it seemed like the vast majority knew the words to every song. How can you not smile when the lights hit the crowd and virtually everyone has their fists in the air screaming ‘It’s a madhouse’? It’s often seemed like Belladonna can’t quite believe he’s back on stage, and it’s really a joy to see a man able to look so happy with what he’s doing.
Technically this was a part of the Lost Kings tour, but the main focus of the gig was an end to end playing of Among the Living. The band hit the audience with a quick tour of their classics from other albums first, playing just as many tracks from Spreading as Disease than For All Kings, but also touching State of Euphoria and Worship Music. The 90’s were ignored, and possibly just as well, but Belladonna has stated a number of times that he doesn’t want to sing songs from the period when he wasn’t lead singer.
The performance of Among the Living was great and would have made a solid performance on its own, bearing in mind its classic status. Recorded music is a wonderful thing and I’m rarely seen without my headphones, but hearing and seeing music performed live by passionate musicians is a real joy, and this gig took me from liking to loving this album. Even the one song on the album I’ve never had a lot of time for (Skeletons) came to life, particularly when Ian Scott gave it an introduction describing how much it meant to him, and why.
After all of that, the gig wrapped up with Antisocial – a bouncy crowd pleaser that ended things on a high note. Not that the whole thing wasn’t a high note – Anthrax have always brought a sense of fun to the sometimes self-important world of Metal, and watching people like Belladonna and Ian do what they clearly love is an uplifting experience. It’s hard to recommend Anthrax live enough for classic thrash fans – it’s the most fun you might have in a metal gig, and there’s a lot to be said for fun, even in metal.