I was very excited by the return of Joey Belladonna to Anthrax and the release of “Worship Music” a few months ago. So when I heard that Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel were coming to the brand new Fillmore that recently opened in Silver Spring, Maryland, I knew we had to go. Not only was this a killer lineup with some of the greatest thrash bands of all time, but it was also an excellent opportunity to educate Buke on what it was like going to an 80s thrash show.
Allow me to make a rambling aside for a moment and mention how I think the “Big Four” should really be the “Big Eight”. You’ll get no argument from me that Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer deserve the title they’ve collectively been given, but I would like to put forth that thrash would not have been thrash as we know it without the contributions made by Testament, Exodus, Overkill and Death Angel. Just saying.
We were excited to see our first show in a brand new venue. The Fillmore looks big and flashy on the outside, and inside everything is nice and new. It’s like the 9:30 Club only bigger, newer and way nicer. No offense to 9:30, but damn, this place is nice. We headed up to the second level and grabbed a railing overlooking the left side of the stage. They even have two tiered railings so more people have something to lean on. Very cool.
One thing we couldn’t help but notice was that the best area in the house, the upper level dead center, was roped off and had tables and chairs. No one was in there and we wondered how one gets those seats, as gen admin was all that was offered online. Buke went over to ask someone, and it turned out this was the VIP lounge that you could upgrade to on the spot. I was having some wicked back trouble and was pretty tired too, so I immediately shelled out the extra cash to upgrade us. Next thing we know we are seated dead center in a cushy chair with a table, food and drink menu and someone to serve us. Each table had a little red light you could turn on when you wanted something and the waitress would come get your order. Now this was how you see a show. I ordered an IPA and told her to keep ‘em coming.
Death Angel was up first. This was my third time seeing them – the first time was in 1990 on the “Act III” tour and the second time was ten years ago at Jaxx on their comeback tour after a ten-year break. This third time was rather surprising for me because all of a sudden there were all these strange white guys in the band. What the hell? No offense to said white guys; this just was not the classic lineup I was used to seeing. They sure sounded good though. Death Angel has always been a killer live band and this show was no exception.
Next up was the mighty Testament. With four of the five long-time members present, and rounded out by the amazing Gene Hoglan on drums, it was a real treat to see Testament again. Unless I’m forgetting, and after all these years I wouldn’t be surprised, the last time I’d seen Testament was in 89/90 for the “Practice What You Preach” tour. It seems strange that it has been so long, but I guess it’s true. It was cool to see Alex Skolnick on board, I didn’t think he liked playing metal anymore. I saw him a year or two ago when he was on tour with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which was also very cool.
Testament played a good mix of classics, even some of the real old stuff. Some of my favorites included “Disciples of the Watch”, “Over the Wall”, “Envy Life” and “The New Order.” Chuck Billy’s voice still sounds amazing. I had several beers by this point and was having a great time. I think Buke’s mind was blown by how awesome these guys were.
As great as the first two bands were, the best was yet to come. I’m not ashamed to admit I got a little teary-eyed when Anthrax took the stage with Joey Belladonna out front. I was lucky enough to see Anthrax on both their “State of Euphoria” and “Persistence of Time” tours and this was like hopping in a hot tub time machine for me. Joey and the rest of the band still sound incredible; it was like they’d been together this whole time.
They played a nice mix of material from the new album as well as the earlier Joey albums. New songs included “Earth on Hell”, “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t”, “The Devil You Know”, “I’m Alive” and “In the End.” I tend to like older material when it comes to bands like these, but the new Anthrax material is just phenomenal. Classic tunes included “Among the Living”, “Caught In A Mosh”, “Madhouse”, and “N.F.L.” They also did their cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time” and a sadly headdress-free version of “Indians.” When they got to the “war dance” part of “Indians” Scott stopped the show and let the crowd know that the “war dance” part cannot have less moshing than the beginning of the song. Suitably chastised, when the song started up again the floor went fucking crazy. I’ve seen many a pit in my day, but I cannot recall a show in a venue like this where the entire floor, from one side to another, was one teeming writhing pit. I was impressed.
During the encore they also did a quick cover of the Sepultura classic “Refuse/Resist” with Scott on vocals. That was an unexpected treat. Not surprisingly the closing number was “I Am The Law” and they tore it up. The show ended and sadly it was time to leave. But what a night it was; three great bands, great seats, tasty beer and my good friend Buke to share it with. I really hope more metal bands will add the Fillmore to their list of stops because I would really like to go back soon.