Thanks to the advertised start time of 9:30 for tonight’s gig, I arrived too late to catch local talent Scarlet Anger (their sophomore album reviewed here some time back). On the bright side, this obviously meant that there wasn’t much time to wait before the introductory strains of ‘Impaled’ began overtaking the venue. Although only about two-thirds full, the assembled crowd greeted the band’s ‘You Gotta Believe’ with a fittingly celebratory response. Initially the mix was a tad muddied but it was impossible to ignore the infectious quality of the band’s latest material, not to mention the distinct and rejuvenating dimension that Jonathan Donais’ lead playing has added. A fact reinforced by ‘Monster at the End’, ‘Evil Twin’ and the sublime ‘Breathing Lightning’ much later in the set.
As ever, Scott Ian and Frank Bello fired the crowd up with their individual stage approaches and shouted backing vocals, while Joey Belladonna drove home the inevitable: that Anthrax featuring him is Anthrax. It’s hard to think of many more consistent, capable vocalists, let alone ones who manage to connect to a crowd as he does. The only one missing tonight – as he was when the band last played here with Slayer – was Charlie Benante. Jon Dette did an admirable job filling in once again – pulling off the classics and the neatly conceived latest material with ease.
From ‘Caught in a Mosh’ to ‘Madhouse’/a bit of ‘The Ripper’ to ‘Got the Time’, anthem followed anthem with, surprisingly, the crowd shouting along to each one. As documented elsewhere on Ave Noctum, audiences in Luxembourg can be shockingly underwhelming but tonight probably represented the best response and atmosphere of any gig I can recall since living here. The highpoint of this, unsurprisingly given the French contingent, was ‘Antisocial’. As I walked into the bogs during its introductory sing-along, the lone bloke at the sink turned to me and automatically proceeded shouting ‘WOH-OH-WOH-OH-WUH-OH!’ right in my face. It was hard not to smile and, toilet visitation over, the track itself provoked an amazing level of crowd participation.
Another highlight of the set – aside from Scott Ian’s quip about the lack of record shops in Luxembourg – was a moving rendition of the mournful ‘In the End’. This time Joey indicated his reverence towards the Motörhead badge on his sleeve; an act striking in the sense that even now it’s hard to believe that Lemmy’s gone. Elsewhere, we got treated to ‘March of the S.O.D.’ and a brilliant closing triple whammy of the previously mentioned ‘Breathing Lightning’, ‘Indians’ and the greatest track in the band’s arsenal, ‘Among the Living’.
With the amount of singing along, and particularly those closing ‘AMONG!’s at the very end, it was kind of surprising that my voice had survived the night as I made my way to work on Friday morning. Not only had Anthrax kicked our arses this Thursday night, they appeared more united as a band than I’ve ever witnessed them. The neatly stenciled Luxembourgish flag bearing the band’s logo thrown on stage at the end expressed how meaningful this classic version of the band is to fans.
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, indeed.