Anthrax, Marquee Theatre, 3/24/13

Anthrax @ Marquee Theatre|3/24/13

There are few things more exciting than being present for the start of a legendary thrash band's tour, when they are fresh, energetic, and have a brand-new set list. Metalheads in Tempe had that glorious opportunity Sunday night, when the Metal Alliance Tour came through town on its third night, playing host to metal youngsters Holy Grail, jubilant thrashers Municipal Waste, sludge masters High on Fire, heavy legends Exodus, and headliners Anthrax.

See also:

-Anthrax Gets Classic Rock with Anthems

It's no secret Anthrax have been crazy-busy over the past two years, between Big Four shows, the release of an excellent album, Worship Music (2011), touring in 2012, and Scott Ian's "Blood & Guts" web series. Then, last week they released the covers EP Anthem and embarked on the Metal Alliance Tour. To top it off, the band's working on a new album slated for release in late 2013 or early 2014.

Despite the constant activity, you'd never be able to accuse the band of being worn out, at least not on the stage Sunday night. What made this show extra special is its setlist, which finds Anthrax is playing its 1987 masterpiece Among the Living in its entirety. Start to finish. Also (coincidence or not), March 22, the tour's kick-off date, marked 26 years to the day that Among the Living was released back in 1987.

At 9:30 p.m. the intro to Worship Music played over the P.A. as the fans, foaming at the mouth, chanted: ANTHRAX-ANTHRAX-ANTHRAX.

Scott Ian was the first to walk on stage amid smoke, pulsating red lights, and Charlie Benante's beautiful drum kit. He began playing the opening chords of "Among the Living" and the mosh pit erupted immediately. "Caught in a Mosh" and "I Am the Law" were the perfect tracks to follow with, prompting more devil horns and fist horns than I've ever seen (including the Big Four show). The fans were appreciative of the band from start to finish, and vice versa. In between every couple songs, Belladonna thanked the crowd for all their support since Among the Living was released.

Since I was expecting only Among the Living tracks and some songs from Anthems, I was pleasantly surprised when the band played a few songs from their extensive catalog after "A Skeleton in the Closet." The beloved "In the End" caused the crowd to simmer down a bit in respect, while a large photo of Ronnie James Dio and one of Dimebag Darrell appeared on opposite sides of the stage. A small acoustic break by stand-in guitarist Jonathan Donias kicked off a crunchy cover of AC/DC's "T.N.T" ensued, which the crowd went nuts for. Throughout the entire night, bassist Frank Bello and Ian's constant headbanging attested to the fact that this show is one for the books for them, and only fueled the audience's fire. Considering the members' ages, they didn't stand still for one second. Belladonna's voice was spot-on, hitting each and every note, delivering the 26-year-old songs with the same ferocity as his recorded versions. While most people don't pay a lot of attention to the drummer, Benante demands attention, with his razor-sharp drumming that pioneered thrash metal.

The band ended the Among the Living album with the track "Imitation of Life" -- the first time the song was ever played live in all the decades of the band touring. Belladonna started it out with a creepy, "This goes out to all the plastic people . . ." before the band dove in, clearly enthused that after all these years the track was a new addition.

After the lights dimmed and the members left the stage for one moment, the lights went up again and the band went into "I'm the Man" with Bello and Ian trading off lead vocals before ending with the mega-hit "Anti-Social". It almost seemed as though Belladonna didn't want the night to end -- as the rest of the members exited the stage he continued to run around like a happy teenager, throwing the devil horns and pointing at the crowd with a huge smile on his face.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: Anthrax, Exodus, and more thrashers on the Metal Alliance 2013 tour at Marquee Theatre in Tempe

The Crowd: Almost better people-watching than at the hippie-heavy McDowell Mountain Music Festival: metalheads spanning teens to well in their 60s, dressed in so many Anthrax/Metal Alliance 2013 t-shirts I'm pretty sure the merch booth sold out before the show.

Personal Bias: For me, the highlight was Bello, Ian, and drummer Charlie Benante ripping a ferocious version of the Stormtroopers of Death classic "March of the S.O.D." The track could be an amazing score to any damn horror film.

Overheard in the Crowd: "We need to have a girls night of a moshing at our house! Oh! And Lilia can be the sacrificial virgin that we pour whiskey on!" (my roommate)

Also: There was a guy in the mosh pit all night long with a long furry tail and bullet-proof vest on, as well as a guy wearing suspenders. Hmmm...

Setlist Among the Living Caught in a Mosh I Am the Law Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.) A Skeleton in the Closet In the End Deathrider T.N.T.(AC/DC cover) March Of The S.O.D.(S.O.D. cover) I'm Alive Indians One World A.D.I./Horror of It All Imitation of Life

Encore I'm the Man Antisocial (Trust cover)

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