As originally posted on metal-rules.com here.
I was not sure what to expect from PANTERA. This was my fourth time seeing them, so I’m pretty familiar with the basic features of the show: lots of blistering thrash metal, Phil riling up the crowd with familiar homilies such as, “There you are, the marijuana smokers of ___________!” (fill in current geographical locality), and a generally testosterone-flavored evening. Pantera checked off all the boxes, but instead of merely business-as-usual they gave an excellent and above all fun show. Their set list contained a large number of tracks from their new album, “Reinventing The Steel” (“Goddamn Electric” and “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit,” for instance), but I think this helped their set tremendously. The new tracks, while no one in particular stands out, are all groove-oriented, fun songs, and from this experience I wonder if they weren’t written specifically to be performed in concert. Dimebag Darrell, while hamming it up for Ice Maiden’s camera, approached his material, both new and old, with the competent but light-hearted touch we’ve come to expect from him. (Ice Maiden’s Commentary: Dimebag smiled at me and stuck out his tongue for the camera! I feel so honored! 😉 ). Phil was probably at his best. Gone is the hyperactive, shaven-headed lunatic from the “Vulgar Video” days, and in his old(er) age Mr. Anselmo has actually mellowed a bit without losing his edge. In fact, compared to his appearance and performance the second time I saw Pantera, in December 1997, Phil has improved remarkably. In recent years his voice has tended toward a gravelly, drug-addled moan. Not so at this show: his tones were clear, his vocals strong, and he even managed to find a melody or two. As if announcing the return of his fairly formidable vocal talent, Phil teased the crowd by singing the opening of “Cemetery Gates.” That would have been a treat if he’d have continued! (Ice Maiden’s Commentary: I had heard horror stories about Phil staggering around at shows too drunk to sing. I must say, I was really pleasantly surprised. He didn’t seem that intoxicated, was lucid, and actually sounded good! Bonus. )
Phil AnselmoWhile I’m not usually partial to the between-song soliloquies of frontmen, something Phil said turned out to be the highlight of the show. Apparently he noticed someone toward the front of the crowd wearing an old Venom shirt, and he commented favorably on it. He urged the crowd to go back to the roots of heavy metal and discover the old, classic albums that are the backbone of the genre. Then he snarled, “I’m talking to the kids in the Slipknot T-shirts right now!” which elicited long and sustained applause. While a bit hypocritical (Phil Anselmo is, after all, single-handedly to blame for the introduction of Coal Chamber), I thought this was a brilliant touch, and a perfect middle finger to raise in the direction of Pantera’s growing legions of critics who claim their appeal to young, unsophisticated listeners has somehow magically transformed their meaty thrash metal into mallcore. Pantera are still a metal band, and a damn good one.
Pantera’s emphasis at this show was clearly on giving the crowd a good time, and they succeeded. My only real complaint is the lack of certain older songs. While Pantera seem to acknowledge the obligation to play at least “Cowboys From Hell” and “Fucking Hostile,” their far-and-away best song — “Mouth For War” — was not even attempted here, and some other fine gems from albums past (“Five Minutes Alone,” anyone?) were conspicuously missing. (Ice Maiden’s Commentary: They played “Fucking Hostile.” I was happy. But he certainly could have eliminated about three of the overly-long and tiresome ballads. How many Pantera fans really want to hear Anselmo sing a ballad? Ok, besides Muertos? My personal opinion is that I watch Pantera to hear aggressive music that sounds like it is being spit out in a venomous rage. Don’t be given me any wussy ballads. Also, Phil needs to chill a bit on the rants. One or two good ones is fun. More than that and I start wishing they would play a little music.) However, the lack of old stuff did not significantly detract from the energy or punch of the show as a whole. By the time the encore ended with flames spouting out of an impressive larger-than-life steel Pantera logo, the crowd was very satisfied. There was even something here to titillate fans of Pantera’s infamous home videos (“Watch It Go,” et. al.). Phil and Dime were chucking cups of beer into the crowd, and camcorder addict Bobby Arntberger could be seen recording the mayhem as usual. I did not, however, see “Big Val” as I did the last time Pantera played Portland. Bummer!
For the rest of the review that includes Morbid Angel, Soulfly, and more pics, check out the metal Rules site here.