Live Review: Anthrax - O2 Academy, Birmingham
27th September 2022
Support: Municipal Waste, Sworn Enemy
Words: Cat Finch
Photos: Tim Finch
It seems like an age since Anthrax last played the UK, of course the pandemic has warped all sense of time passing by. A few pre-pandemic tours, including a support slot on Slayer’s farewell followed by a storming 2019 Bloodstock appearance was their last venture over to these fair isles. Despite having cancelled the mainland Europe dates for 2022, they have made it to the UK and kick off their run of dates tonight at the O2 Academy in Birmingham.
Never anyone’s favourite venue, the usual bottleneck of fans queuing for what seems like miles greets us as we arrive this evening but once we are out of the cold and into the near warmth inside the atmosphere is building in anticipation.
Opening proceedings are fellow New Yorkers Sworn Enemy who meld hardcore with a metal edge. A throw back, almost, to Biohazard at their peak. Their thirty minute set is a barrage of pummelling riffs topped off with that punch in the face that is vocalist Sal Lococo’s venom filled delivery. There’s a few nod’s to Slayer throughout their set which get approval from the old thrashers in the building. A fiery start to what looks to be a storming night.
The ultimate in party thrash, Municipal Waste are ready to destroy the Academy! The crowd is always a hive of activity when the band are on stage, as soon as they kick into opener ‘Demoralizer’ the fans go wild and the surfers come flying! The buzzsaw guitars melt your face as they rip through their forty five minute set. A tribute to Cliff Burton, on the anniversary of his passing, goes down well with the crowd before it’s back into action, ‘High Speed Steel’, ‘Electrified Brain’, ‘Wave of Death’ all getting outings. Throughout the set vocalist Tony Foresta calls for circle pits and surfers, the crowd oblige and the carnage ensues. Closing with ‘The Art of Partying’ and ‘Born to Party’ highlight what this band are all about, a thrashing good time!
The main event that everyone is here for is of course the Anthrax performance, a celebration of forty years of the band. Despite their XL release missing out the John Bush era of tunes, pre-tour Charlie had promised fans some Bush era songs for this tour. Can we expect ‘Only’, ‘Hy Pro Glo’, ‘Safe Home’ or even ‘Black Lodge’ to make it into tonight’s set? We are about to find out...
As a curtain covers the stage, the bands usual intro tape (Blue Brothers) is replaced by a welcome message from various celebrities congratulating the band on 40 years in the business. Keanu Reeves, Corey Taylor, Gene Simmons, Rob Trujillo, Henry Rollins, Slash, Dave Mustaine, Norman Reedus and more all make the video montage projected onto the curtain.
As the curtain drops the band launch into their set and ‘Among The Living’. For the old school fans the first twenty minute onslaught is a 80’s thrash masterclass. ‘Caught In a Mosh’, ‘Mad House’ and ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ follow, Scott Ian scissor kicking his way around the stage as Joey interacts with the crowd at every possible moment.
Forty years in and the band have lost no energy or momentum, not even a pandemic could slow them down. There’s an electric atmosphere in the building, the crowd are loving it, the band are loving it, it’s infectious. You cannot fail to enjoy an Anthrax show!
As the set continues ‘Antisocial’ and ‘I Am The Law’ are followed by the only new era song for the evening ‘In The End’, with its anthemic feel it gets the fans chanting along. One Bush era song does make the set as well, ‘Only’, and it's so welcome to see that stage of the bands career represented. Joey might not have John’s vocal range but that doesn’t stop the packed house screaming “ONLY” as if their lives depended on it.
The main portion of the set is closed by ‘Bring The Noise’ and ‘Indians’ and to round out a wonderful evening ‘Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)’ closes the show.
Yes there were some great songs missing from this set list, but with such a vast catalogue, something will always miss the cut. Despite a few favourites being absent that was one hell of a show, the bands loved it, the fans loved it. What a way to kick off a UK tour!