Post #96 Poll Winner: 'Which concert should I review next?'
In January 1998, I planned to attend my 2nd heavy metal concert: Pantera!!! I had been a fan of Pantera since '94, when Far Beyond Driven became the first metal album to debut at #1 on the Billboard charts. A couple years later, while in college, I began attending rock concerts. Generally I would wait until one of my favorite bands would come around on tour, then see if some of my friends were interested in joining me (if they didn't invite me first).
Pantera had just released their first live album: Official Live: 101 Proof (100% Against the Grain American Metal). When they announced the tour in support of this live album, Anthrax was billed as the opening act. I was instantly hyped! I had also been a fan of Anthrax for several years. So here was the opportunity to see two huge thrash metal bands at once. I had to go!
Finding a few friends to go with was no problem. This was when Pantera's popularity was at it's peak, so I knew plenty of other fans. By the time the show date was approaching I had confirmed a few friends on campus were attending as well as a friend from another college who would meet us at the venue. Our plans were set for a promising night of Heavy Metal Mayhem! Little did we know the mayhem we were in for.
The day of the show came and our group hit the road for Peoria, IL to see Pantera. The weather forecast: freezing rain! Leaving a little ahead of schedule, we quickly encountered dangerously icy road conditions and were forced to drive at what seemed a snail's pace for most of our journey. Though we had departed with plenty of time to spare, I now wondered if we would even make the show on time...
Meanwhile, my friend from a different part of the state was facing the same problem. At one point he spun-out at high speed on the interstate, but luckily came to rest in a ditch unharmed. Determined to make the show as well, he eventually maneuvered his vehicle back onto the highway by driving it up & down the slopes of the ditch like it was a snowboard in a half-pipe until he had enough momentum to escape the ditch.
Once we arrived at the venue (remarkably, on time!) we exchanged our stories of the treacherous drive, then made our way inside, determined to make our troubles worth it. We found our section, took our seats, and waited for the show to begin. We had lower level tickets, and had a good view of the standing-room/floor area, as well as the stage to our left. The floor was about 1/4 filled and I began to wonder if the weather had kept some from attending this show. However, at one point a couple sneaky 1st level ticket holders made a mad-dash for the floor and jumped the barricade. This transformed into a mini-avalanche of people, as it became apparent there was not sufficient security to prevent the inundation. One of our party followed suit, but would return at some point later in the show, since we were also his ride home.
In a few minutes the house lights had gone down and the first opening act was announced. To our surprise there was a 3rd act on the bill, as the show was being kicked off by Sebastian Bach, former singer of Skid Row! He had released a new solo album recently at that point and played a couple tunes from it, but primarily used Skid Row songs to fill his set. At one point he mentioned the terrible weather, and how it wasn't enough to stop the rock n' roll show. I remember hearing a few songs from the Slave to the Grind album, including Riot Act & Mudkicker. He also covered the Kiss song, Parasite, but closed his set with the Skid Row anthem, Youth Gone Wild.
At this point the venue had pretty much filled up and the crowd was primed for Anthrax! Before long the stage was changed over and the backdrop revealed Anthrax's mascot, Not Man, driving a toy car. A few seconds later a blaring heavy chord rang out, making your head feel like it was vibrating from the inside. Then it repeated, and repeated again.... (chug-chug.... BLAAAARE, chug-chug.... ) and before you knew what had happened we were ALL CAUGHT IN A MOSH!
Anthrax gave us a great set of thrashers. Going back and forth between their material with Jon Bush from the albums Sound of White Noise and Stomp 442 (their newest at that point), and their classics from the Joey Belladonna era. I had been curious to hear how those older Anthrax tunes would sound with Jon Bush on vocals, and they were awesome! During a break between songs they made mention of the weather outside that evening and again gave the crowd credit for making the show happen. They closed their set with the anti-censorship anthem 'Startin' Up a Posse' followed by the rap-thrash crossover hit 'Bring the Noise'.
Before the headliners took the stage there was an interesting event that transpired as an introduction to the show. Suddenly ZZ Top's 'Tush' began to blare from the PA sound system. This was followed by a gigantic inflated penis that was tossed into the crowd. It was bopped about like the oddest concert body-surf episode I had ever witnessed. The crowd had a lot of fun with it, manipulating it in a variety of creative gestures as 'Tush' played through, then gave way to Pantera's own 'Good Friends & a Bottle of Pills' (still over the PA system; the band had yet to take the stage). Once the song finished, there was a silence of peaked anticipation that began to build...
Then it was was the best-saved-for-last. The most powerful metal band of the 90's! The original Cowboys From Hell: PANTERA! The crowd may have seemed moshed-out after the Anthrax set, but as soon as the heavy-as-hell riffs began to pump out of the amps, they got intensified once again. 'Mouth For War' was their opening number, and to hear that classic Pantera song kick off a live show was one of the best heavy metal concert experiences of my life.
PANTERA's set seemed to go on forever. It was heavy-metal bliss! This was Pantera in their prime. They played memorable songs from each of their four albums since Cowboys From Hell. It seemed they played every song I may have considered a favorite over the years. There were also a few that I may not have expected, but enjoyed all the same. Then, just when it seemed the show was over, they came back for an encore.
They teased us a bit by playing the opening riff of Black Sabbath's 'Symptom of the Universe', but instead went on to play 'Planet Caravan'. Lastly we were treated to 'Fucking Hostile' as the last song of the evening. I had an ecstatic feeling that fell over me as we began to head to the exits. A part of me knew I had just beheld a masterful performance by one of this generation's Guitar Gods in the person of Dimebag Darrell.
It is one thing to be a fan of a certain musician through their recorded music, but there's nothing to compare to the first time you see them perform live. There's an unspoken understanding that they're putting on a show for you as a fan while expressing a part of their own soul at the same time. Knowing they play the way they do because they were once the fan of another musician, the way you are now a fan of theirs. I had no way of knowing that this was to be the only show I would ever see Dimebag Darrell play.
This concert serves to remind myself that life should always be lived to the fullest. Every time I think back to it, or listen to songs that I heard played on that night, I step back to appreciate whatever it is I may be doing. Any of you reading this should do the same. If you're lucky enough to have tickets for a live show, remember it could always be a once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy it to the fullest extent possible! No matter if it's a local band in your hometown bar, or the Rolling Stones, it's always rock & roll. It's there for you and because of you.
Here's the set lists as best as I can recall:
-Piece of Me
-Slave to the Grind
-18 & Life
-Youth Gone Wild
-Caught in a Mosh
-Room for One More
-Among the Living/Indians (Played as a medley: they jumped straight into 'Indians' at one of the chorus breaks of 'Among the Living')
-Got the Time
-I Am the Law
-Startin' Up a Posse
-Bring the Noise
(played as intro)
Pantera-Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills
-Mouth for War
-5 Minutes Alone
-A New Level
-Suicide Note (pt 2)
-Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks
-Cowboys From Hell (played with a riff from 'Cat Scratch Fever' thrown in!)
Rest In Peace Dimebag!