Setting the Stage: It’s hard to believe, but this year marks the 40th anniversary of the formation of thrash metal pioneers Anthrax. Considered to be one of the “Big 4” of thrash (along with Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth), the band — which since 2013 has featured a lineup comprised of singer Joey Belladonna, guitarists Scott Ian and Jon Donais, bassist Frank Bello, and drummer Charlie Benante — undoubtedly would have preferred to celebrate this impressive career accomplishment with a thorough world tour, but instead offered up a virtual worldwide concert event.
Anthrax officially formed on July 18th, 1981, and the metal legends started the 40th anniversary celebration a couple months back with a video series documenting their illustrious career through testimonials from the band members and their musical peers. It all culminated with Friday night’s “Celebrating 40 Years” livestream concert, a career-spanning performance filmed on a soundstage in Los Angeles (The Den), including classics and quite a few pleasant surprises.
Taking the Stage: Beginning with a slow-motion hit to a cymbal by Benante, the intro from “Time” led immediately to “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t.” And while it’s often the case that bands not sound as potent as their careers extend further and further, Anthrax are one of the few who still sounds as tight and mighty as they ever have — as evidenced from the get-go, and continuing throughout the performance. In addition to flickering lights, there were also added visual elements to specific songs, such as “Caught in a Mosh” having footage of moshers doing their thing and “I Am the Law” having illustrations from the Judge Dredd comic book flashing on the band.
Also included throughout were brief video tributes from the likes of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Rob Zombie, DMC, Chris Jericho, Jason Momoa, Steve Harris, Tom Morello, Corey Taylor, Keanu Reeves, Henry Rollins, Slash, Mike Patton, and Vernon Reid, among others.
To return to the earlier point of how mighty the band still sounds, one of evening’s surprise nuggets, “Lone Justice” (off Anthrax’s first full-length with Belladonna, 1985’s Spreading the Disease), showed that the singer has no problem still replicating the super high vocals that open the song, with other fine-sounding deep cuts including “Metal Thrashing Mad,” “Skeletons in the Closet,” and perhaps one of the best performances of the evening, “Keep It in the Family.”
Up to midway through the performance, the band wore a color-coordinated ensemble – black shirts and black full-length trousers. But for “Be All End All,” the members reappeared wearing shorts — undoubtedly a nod to the late ‘80s era when the gents were consistently spotted wearing Jams shorts, which became an Anthrax fashion trademark for a spell.
Prior to a performance of “In the End,” illustrated images of Ronnie James Dio, Dimebag Darrell, and Vinnie Paul were shown, as the band was close to all three late musicians. More favorites (“Indians”) and long-lost gems (“Aftershock”) followed, before certainly one of the evening’s top highlights — Public Enemy legend Chuck D taking the stage for a killer rendition of “Bring the Noise.”
Also of note, sound man Jay Ruston should be commended, as the sonics were loud and clear throughout, with the evening’s set-closer, “Among the Living,” sounding particularly grand.
When all was said and done, Anthrax certainly gave fans their money’s worth — the concert event was over two hours in length, and 22 songs in total. And if that wasn’t enough, a “behind the scenes” feature was also included. Featured were bonus performances of songs that didn’t make the main set (“Breathing Lightning,” “Protest and Survive,” and “NFL”), as well as Scott Ian showing us around NYC landmarks that proved significant in Anthrax’s history, as he visited such places as the Megaforce Records office, the location where CBGB’s used to be, and Joe’s Pizza (where Anthrax would often enjoy late night slices after shows).
Fans who missed the initial stream on Friday evening have plenty of time to catch Anthrax’s 40th anniversary show. The concert event is streaming on demand through July 25 at 11:59 p.m. ET, with tickets available at this location. Watch a clip of Anthrax performing “The Devil You Know” and view the setlist and additional pics below.
Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t
Caught in a Mosh
Metal Thrashing Mad
Got the Time
I Am the Law
Keep It in the Family
The Devil You Know
Be All, End All Play
In the End
A Skeleton in the Closet
Blood Eagle Wings
Bring the Noise (with Chuck D)
Among the Living
Bonus Performances from “Behind the Scenes” feature:
Protest and Survive
Anthrax 40th Anniversary Livestream Images (click to enlarge & scroll through):