Last Night: Anthrax & Exodus at House of Blues
I am going to come right out and say it: I never thought Anthrax should have been a part of The Big Four.
When laying out the titans of thrash metal, the boys from New York -- a fact they never seem to want you to forget -- always seemed a bit out of place next to their three California brethren: Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth.
Anthrax's quirky pop-culture and comic-book references and that odd predilection for imitating the Beastie Boys just never sat quite right. They seemed too Sunset Strip in their Joey Belladonna era and too Biohazard in the John Bush years.
So I always had a silly, largely baseless, reason to marginalize Anthrax. In my 14-year-old mind, the coveted fourth spot rightfully belonged to Testament, Exodus or maybe even the babies of the Bay Area scene, Death Angel.
You are about to read something I don't admit very often. I was wrong. I may be more than a couple of decades too late in my realization, but hearing Anthrax play Among the Living in its entirety Wednesday night was worthy of an epiphany, and it was certainly a moment worth waiting for.
From the moment the curtain lifted to reveal a mike-stand-twirling Belladonna, prancing and hamming it up for the imaginary 1980s-style heavy metal music video camera crews, you couldn't help but notice that aside from a few gray hairs in Scott Ian's trademark goatee, the 2013 version of Anthrax has aged extremely well. They were playing 1987's classic Among the Living from cover to cover tonight but there were a few welcome pit stops along the way.
Anthrax opened with the title track, an ode to Stephen King antagonist Randall Flagg. As an aside, when think of The Stand, I still picture the creepy man from the cover of Among the Living, despite later learning it was meant to depict Henry Kane from the Poltergiest series.
If Scott Ian has been the de facto leader of the band these past 30 some-odd years, then Frank Bello is the unsung hero. His bass lines rival the late Cliff Burton's and they shook the monitors hanging above the crowd at House of Blues.
With only a brief greeting from Belladonna, the band launched into "Caught in a Mosh" and the crowd launched into a swelling, spinning elliptical pit that threatened to stretch the width of the venue. For people whose average age was probably pushing 30, this was one of the wildest crowds the typically reserved Houston scene has produced in some time.