February 24, 2018
I have a pinched nerve in my neck. Self-diagnosed, but diagnosed nonetheless. It’s from shoveling snow. We’ve had so much snow this year. It doesn’t just snow a little at a time either. Every time it's snowed it’s been some sort of snowmadeggon extinction level event. It’s snowed so much this year that my sidewalk looks like Planet Hoth. And I don’t have a snow blower because I’m not 50 years old. Using a snow blower if you’re under 50 years old is some real bourgeoisie shit. In fact, living somewhere where it doesn’t get cold or snow is some real bourgeoisie shit. But I’m not going to get into all that right now. Just know that if you live somewhere were it doesn't snow or get cold I'm judging you. And if you do live somewhere where it snows and use a snowblower and you're under 50 years old, I'm also judging you.
So I’ve got this pinched nerve in my neck that makes it so I can’t turn my head to the side or look up and down, and here comes another giant snow fall. And wouldn’t you know it, this particular snowpacolypse happens to also be the night Anthrax comes to town. There’s a travel advisory too.
So naturally I’m going to go. But first I must procrastinate and pretend that I’m not. Unlike the pinched nerve in my neck, which, fingers crossed, is only temporary, procrastination is an ailment I’ve suffered from my entire life.
According to the press email Anthrax is scheduled at 8:30 pm; after Havok and before something called Killswitch Engage. So I spend an inordinate amount of time hem and hawing about whether or not I should go even though I’m definitely going to end up going. I secretly hope it gets cancelled. I go so far as to text the on-site contact to ask if it’s been cancelled yet. I get no answer. I continue hem and hawing right up until the time Havok is supposed to be go on, which is just enough time for me and the pinched nerve in my neck to shovel again, jump in my wife’s car, drive downtown in a travel advisory, park in my secret spot, trudge five blocks to the Skyway Theatre, and walk in minutes before Anthrax take the stage.
And that’s exactly what I do.
I find a comfortable spot stage left against a wall, and survey the scene. The place is packed; near if not at capacity. Mostly middle-aged folks with greying hair. There’s a punk dude with liberty spikes but he’s confusingly wearing a Staind T-shirt. A few younger kids are dressed like what you would dress like if you looked up “thrash metal” in Google Images. (I don’t have to describe this do I?) Everyone reeks of cigarettes and body odor. Most are drinking. I have forgotten my ear plugs, so I fashion some from a napkin I’ve had in my pocket from six months ago when I bought my co-worker a cup of Tim Horton's.
Anthrax run on stage, go into “Among the Living”, and the place erupts. A wave of relief washes over me as I realize risking it to get here was the right decision. Fists and devil horns shoot into the air. After everyone is good and warmed up and the requisite “Hey Minneapolis, how the fuck are ya’s?!” are out of the way they head into “Caught in a Mosh.” Everyone goes B to the nanas and I go, “Ouch!” I am immediately reminded of the pinched nerve in my neck. There will be no head banging for me tonight. Hell, there will be nary a head nod. I’m not so much a participant tonight as I am an observer.
The Skyway has really nice sightlines, as nearly the entire place is sloped. This makes it easy to see the whole stage from any vantage point without much obstruction. So when bassist Frank Bello goes running up the stairs on the riser to swing his hair wildly next to touring drummer Jon Dette, while Joey Belladonna stands below, flanked by axemen Scott Ian and Jonathan Donais you get that picture perfect heavy metal concert moment. You know, the kind of image that would adorn the inside of a double gatefold back in like, ’87. The light show is fairly streamlined but cool; alternating between white strobes and a Hulkamania-like red and yellow hue that shoots green lasers into the crowd. The sound is great too.
Belladonna asks, “What’s up freaks? Andybody got the fucking time?!” And then they play, you guessed it, “Got the Time.” The guys take full advantage of the large stage, running and leaping across it like toddlers that ate too many cookies at the daycare birthday party when rad dad wasn't looking. At what, 35 years or so, it’s amazing how much energy Anthrax puts into their live performance. Bello, Belladonna, and Ian move about like it spry teenagers still living out their wildest, thrashiest, heavy metalist fantasies. And the audience gives it right back. There’s a very large man next to the side bar that is battering about so carelessly that he’s moving the entire bar structure. It’s entertaining but the wait staff seem scared.
Two from the latest record, For All Kings (“Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” and “Breathing Lighting”) are bookended by two from Spreading the Disease (“Madhouse” and “Medusa”). It’s no secret Belladonna is a huge Vikings fan. He attempts to get a Skol chant going but to no avail. Giving in, he shrugs his shoulders and says, “Next year?” Then he dons a Vikings cap that someone tosses on stage and they tear into “I Am the Law.”
It’s weird, for a band that was once considered the knuckleheads of The Big Four, only Anthrax has truly outlasted, and remained entrenched in their thrash roots. Sure the other three still exist as well, but in no way whatsoever do they resemble the versions that rose to prominence. Meanwhile Anthrax put out arguably their best materiel three decades into their existence (see Worship Music) and maintain a rigorous tour schedule. This is the fourth time I've seen them since Belladonna reentered the fold, and it's just as forceful and entertaining as the previous three. While there are a few mainstays in the setlist, they switch it up every time they come around.
The show is rounded out by “Be All, End All”, my personal favorite “Antisocial”, and the closer “Indians.” The “war dance” part “Indians” leaves the mosh pit depleted of energy, dryness, and clothing. The band comes to the front of the stage and takes a bow the way metal bands do. And I head for the door with a gigantic smile on my face the way guys who have a pinched nerve in their neck who have to drive home in their wife’s car during a travel advisory only to shovel some more snow but who have just seen Anthrax so they don’t really care do.
Among the Living
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't
I Am the Law
Be All, End All
Nathan G. O'Brien lives in Minneapolis. He publishes Soda Killers Magazine, and hosts HotDogDayz Radio. He goes the chiropractor next week to get his neck checked out. Follow him on Twitter at @OMG_NOB.