By Jason Coldiron
September 14th 2012, Ace Of Spades, Sacramento CA: A sold out crowd lined up for blocks around Sacramento’s Ace of Spades. A couple of thousand die-hard metal fans lined up for a ridiculously great metal lineup consisting of Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel. With tickets sold out weeks prior, many fans walked up and down the row trying to get anyone to sell them an extra ticket. There were no takers, as no fan in this line was about to give up their tickets at any price. The distraught metalheads without tickets were left to ponder their disgrace at the show they would miss. After a long wait in line, 6:30 finally arrived. The doors opened and the fans began to stream in. The Ace of Spades is not a huge venue that can support many thousand guests, but a smaller place with a maximum capacity around two thousand people. While making for an intimate show, this lineup was meant for arenas way the hell bigger than this one. As the night progressed, the size of the venue, unfortunately, took away a lot from the show.
Promptly at 7:00, Death Angel took the stage and wasted no time blowing the roof off of the place. They burned through three songs before lead singer Mark Osegueda finally said a few words to the crowd. He thanked everyone for coming and ‘supporting thrash.’ Then he rambled about how the San Francisco natives loved Sacramento and even recorded albums here. Then they went back to blowing the place up. Their set even finished a few minutes early and set the stage for Testament.
Death Angel set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm):
I Chose the Sky
Mistress of Pain
Claws In So Deep
The Ultra-Violence / Thrown to the Wolves
After what seemed like a very short intermission, Testament took the stage and quickly did what they do best – turning a bunch of people standing around doing nothing into a bunch of crazed lunies headbanging and crashing into each other. Lead singer Chuck Billy did his usual antics, including playing his microphone stand as a guitar often. His screams caused pain in the ears of the unwilling and joy to those who understood his power. The amazing solos by guitarist Alex Skolnick seemed lost on the mostly younger crowd. They played a solid set that left the crowd ready for more.
Testament set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm):
The New Order
True American Hate
More Than Meets the Eye
Into the Pit
Dark Roots of Earth
Practice What You Preach
Over the Wall
D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)
3 Days in Darkness
A much longer set-change happened next, which took upwards of 40 minutes. The crowd moaned and groaned as guitar and drum techs tested the instruments and sounds. This would all prove to be very worth the wait as the mighty Big-4 alums Anthrax were set to play. Eventually, the lights went down and the feverish crowd came to a screaming boil.
The first chords hit with the opening of “Earth on Hell”, from their latest album, Worship Music. Most of the crowd seemed to know the song, which was not surprising since it came out just last year. The band followed that with another song from Worship Music, “Fight em till you can’t.” Everyone in the building chanted the end chorus, “fight em!, fight em!” each time through it. The song was perhaps highlighted by bassist Frank Bello (who was sporting much longer hair than in the past) and his antics during the song’s transitions as he looked like a drunken bobblehead doll rushing through the alternate parts to Belladonna’s “I’ll end you” parts.
The song wrapped up and the opening notes of, “Caught in a Mosh” began to play. Most people in the building seemed to know what was coming immediately. The mosh pit in this small venue quickly swelled to take up the majority of the floor. Normally, I would have been right in the middle of this, but having gotten injured in the mosh pit during this same song when I saw the band on the Mayhem fest this summer, I had promised my best friends I would stay out of it, which I reluctantly did. Instead, I stayed around the sides of the circle pit and was content to bang my head, scream lyrics and send pit outliers back into the thick of it. Having experienced the pit at Mayhem fest in a MUCH bigger venue, I can say that the pit in this place dwarfed that of Mountain View CA. It was also a much more violent pit, seeing many people hit the deck before being picked up by fellow moshers, only to be quickly knocked back down on their asses. This assessment of the pit remained true throughout the show.
The band ripped through many of their classics such as “Antisocial” and “Indians” (a song I personally can’t stand at all), and more songs from Worship Music, such as, “In the End” and, “The Devil you know.” The latter song specifically made evident that the band was not on their “A” game tonight. While I love them to death, Rob Caggiano botched the solo on ‘devil’ and missed some notes on other songs, while vocalist Joey Belladonna had the voice of… well… of a singer on the first night of a tour (which this was). Their performance would be ok by most bands’ standards, however, for one of the greatest metal bands ever, it was a bit of a disappointment.
The band finished the main set with, “Efilnikufesin (NFL)”. Based on the setlist of songs before that, it was obvious an encore was in store, even as the band walked off the stage. Sure enough, after about three minutes the band stepped back out and launched into, “Among the Living.” This was followed by “Got the time” and “Madhouse” which was particularly well-received by this crowd.
As the band paused, many of us hoped we were about to be treated to, “Metal Thrashing Mad” followed by, “I am the Law”…. but it was not to be on this night. The opening chords of ‘Law’ made it clear that the big finish was already upon us. Belladonna gave a typical speech about thanking the fans for a sold-out show and how great it was to be once again touring with Testament and Death Angel. Then they absolutely nailed, “I am the Law” and finished the show with the kind of blow-up I expect from a band of their caliber. This is also a good time to note that people who leave a show like this right before, “I am the law” starts or is getting going (as a bunch of fans did) really should have their metal privileges revoked. It is unbelievable how you could leave at a time like that. The fact that the very same people were obstructing my view and bumping into me was inconsequential next to the fact that they were bailing on one of the greatest metal experiences ever … but I digress.
When the last note had finished ringing through the building, the band was incredibly classy and professional as they took their bow, throwing their picks and drum sticks into the crowd and made their way off stage. The house lights came on and the show was clearly over.
With the show over, I was left to digest what I had just experienced. The truth is that I am a hard-core Anthrax fan. I am also a journalist, so I have to tell the truth and the truth is that on this night, Anthrax probably only brought their “C” game. It pains me to have to write that, but this is the truth. Unfortunately, this was a show marred by sound problems, guitar mistakes and shaky (at best) vocals. That’s on top of the (in my opinion) poor choices on the set list, most notably the absence of “Metal Thrashing Mad” and, “Be all, end all…” (one of the best live songs in their arsenal).
As I drove home with my friend (who had spent the entire night in the very front row) I was left to ponder the show. The truth (and believe me it kills me as a fan to say this) is that Anthrax was far from their best on this night and I went home unsatisfied with my experience.
Overall gig rating: 8/10
Anthrax set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm):
Earth on Hell
Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t
Caught in a Mosh
Indians (with “Run to the Hills” Intro)
Antisocial (Trust cover)
In the End
The Devil You Know
In My World
Among the Living
Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
I Am the Law