HomeMusicPop-Break Live: Anthrax at Starland Ballroom

Pop-Break Live: Anthrax at Starland Ballroom

bill bodkin gets caught in a mosh … literally …

Words and Photos by Bill Bodkin

The Setting: Scott Ian put it perfectly — this was a homecoming show for Anthrax. The band, although New York-born, carved out their sound in the Sayreville and Old Bridge areas of New Jersey. They, along with Metallica, signed their first record deal to the Central Jersey-based Megaforce Records and then cut their teeth at the various metal clubs that inhabited the region in the 80s. And the crowd on this evening didn’t forget Anthrax’s Jersey history. Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on Saturday night was filled with old-school metal heads, their flowing locks tinged with gray, who dusted off their leather and jean jackets for the night. In equal number were younger metal heads both male and female, ranging from 12-30 who grew up on ‘Thrax. It was a diverse crowd united in their love for one of the kings of heavy metal.

And this homecoming was made even more special by the fact that this was the band’s first performance in the Central Jersey area since 2005. Fans, like yours truly, have been chomping at the bit to see the band return to area, so just the mere fact Anthrax was back in town had everyone amped to the max. And to put icing on the cake, the band would also be unleashing songs from their new record Worship Music on this area for the first time ever.

Opening Band: Death Angel
The Bay Area band set the tone for the evening. There was a small yet passionate Death Angel

fan base in the house that ate up everything the band did. As for the rest of the audience, by mid-set, they really seemed to embrace Death Angel. As a band Death Angel is tight, pounding out some really intense thrash metal, evoking a Metallica-esque crunch. Lead singer Mark Osegueda and his mile-long dreads were quite a site to see as they flailed around as he banged his head. If there was one complaint about Death Angel, it was Osegueda’s vocals, which at times were just a little too much. One can only take someone screaming aggressively for so long. However, when he actually sang, Osegueda proved he has some impressive pipes, if that he been his vocal technique throughout Death Angel’s set they might’ve stolen the thunder from co-headliner Testament.

Co-Headliner: Testament
Testament came out with full, reckless abandon, grabbing the audience at The Starland Ballroom by the throat. The most impressive player, in a sea of impressive players that comprises Testament, was guitarist Alex Skolnick. A disciple of virtuoso guitarist Joe Satriani, Skolnick effortlessly blew audience members minds with guitar work. If there was any complaint about Testament’s set it was the length of time they were onstage. While the band had really solid support from the audience, it felt as though they’d never leave the stage. Songs seemed to blend together and the set started getting a Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King feel — just when you thought they were done, they’d start up a new song. You could feel the audience’s exhaustion. With that negative out of the way, you really need to look into checking out Testament if you’re a fan of the ’80s thrash metal sound. They absolutely kill it.

Celeb Sightings: The night was hosted by Headbanger’s Ball and Siruis XM Liquid Metal host Jose Mangin, who was beyond amped for the show. Also in attendance, to no one’s surprise, was VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show host Eddie Trunk. Having come up in the music industry with Anthrax, it was fitting that Trunk, a New Jersey native, would be here for Anthrax’s homecoming show. With Trunk was iconic metal drummer Mike Portnoy, formerly of Dream Theater and currently with Adrenaline Mob.

The Main Event: Anthrax

Before we start the professional part of the review, I have to say I was absolutely jumping out of my skin knowing that after falling in love with Anthrax in 1998, I was finally seeing them live. Also, this was my first live shoot for Pop-Break and my first concert shoot ever. So being two inches from the band as they rocked out, with humanity flying at me from the crowd surfers at Starland during “Caught In A Mosh” was one of the most insane, life-in-fast-forward moments I’ve ever had. In essence, it was amazing.

The band kicked things into high gear by opening the set up with “Earth On Hell” off their new album, Worship Music and then quickly transitioned into the album’s first single, the zombie apocalypse themed “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t.” The crowd was amped and the energy was high, but nothing could prepare the crowd or the people in the photo pit for the pure explosion of heavy metal fury that would be unleashed when the band tore into their classic “Caught In A Mosh.” It was one of the most adrenaline-fueled, insane concert moments this writer has ever experienced.

The band “slowed” things down by engaging their audience in sing-a-longs with the classic “Anti-Social” and new tracks “I’m Alive” and “Devil You Know.” Never had the phrases “Anti-Social” and “You Bastard” (from “Devil You Know”) been sung with such enthusiasm and testosterone before.

Then came the War Dance. If you’ve never heard the band’s classic “Indians,” there’s a certain breakdown in the song after Joey Belladona’s supersonic wailing where Scott Ian roars the phrase “WAR DANCE!” This is the signal for everyone in the audience to basically loose their mind and stomp stomp stomp. On this night, when Ian bellowed his mosh-inducing cry, he seemed to be a bit disappointed. He literally stopped the song and chided the audience. He wanted everyone, not just the people in the center of the floor to loose it. And when he re-started the song and let out a rip-roaring “WAAAAAAAAR DAAAAAAANCE,” everyone lost it. Whether it be at the bar, in the back, in the bathroom, everyone stomped it out.

The rest of the set included the Dio/Dimebag Darrell tribute “In The End,” the Joe Jackson cover “Got The Time,” the throwback jam “Medusa” and the chant inducing “NFL (Nice F’N Life).” The band took a brief break and would return for an encore. With a breather, that was well-needed, one was able to come up with a few conclusions from an Anthrax show:

1. This band is the model for stamina. With most members of the band pushing into their 40s and beyond, they know how to pound it out for a near-20-song set. Thrashing, stomping, leaping in the air, Scott Ian and Frank Bello are the pictures of cardiovascular health. And lest us not forget drummer Charlie Benante who is an absolute beast, drumming as fast and hard as he does.

2. Rob Caggiano is one of the most underrated guitarists in metal. When you think of Anthrax, he’s probably the one you don’t think of since he’s technically the newest member. But he’s been with the band for well over a decade, and man, can this dude SHRED. He is an absolute ace on guitar.

3. Forget the rest, Belladonna is the best. I’ve always been a solid John Bush-era Anthrax fan, but watching Joey Belladonna wail, growl, scream and belt his ass off to pitch perfection was a sight to be seen.

The band then returned for one hell of an encore. A triple threat of “Among The Living,” “Madhouse” and “Metal Thrashing Metal” were almost too much metal for the exhausted crowd to handle. But there’s the keyword … almost. The crowd was absolutely in love with Anthrax. They could do no wrong — they were the Stones, Zeppelin and The Beatles wrapped in one fistful of metal. And no matter how much sweat we poured, how shot our voices were, we were going to give Anthrax our all, just they were giving us their all.

And then, the band decided to blow our mind. They broke into “I’m The Man,” their groundbreaking fusion of metal and rap. And they looked to the audience for the vocals and to what seemed like their surprise, we knew all the words.

After the impromptu singalong, Joey hopped onto the drumkit and grabbed some drum sticks. The audience looked on in confusion, and then it happened. The tribal drums hit, a familiar riff started up and then the crowd realized Anthrax was breaking out a blistering cover of Seplatura’s “Refuse/Resist.” And the audience lost their minds. Moshing, singing, pumping their fists and throwing up the horns, the crowd was absolutely ballistic.

And as if the night couldn’t get any better, the Seplatura cover merged into their Judge Dredd (the comic)-inspired classic “I Am The Law.” The band and the audience poured their last bit of energy, breath and adrenaline into the closing tune. It was amazing.

When the band took their bows the audience showered them in much-deserved love and appreciation. Anthrax absolutely laid it all out for the crowd and left everything on the stage. Drench in sweat and physically exhausted this band made this night special. This wasn’t just their homecoming, this was a thank you to the people who came out in the ’80s to support them and the people who discovered them and fell in love with them along the way leading to this night. Anthrax has always been a band for the people, and on this night, they showed their undying love for their fans undying love for them, with an unforgettable show.

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.


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