Coming to the end of the school years I fell in with a group of two or three guys and our sole interactions were to go to gigs. We got on pretty well but we didn’t hang about at school or outside other than to head through to the Barras to see whoever – Slayer, Sepultura, Suicidal Tendencies, even Rage Against the Machine when all we had heard was the buzz and not the album.
Time passed and we all went our separate ways until a couple of years ago I got back in touch with one of the guys, John, through the wonders of Facebook. A gig came up that we both fancied and so we decided to head through together to the Academy and see Therapy?, have a couple of beers and a catch up. Naturally enough the conversation quickly turned to gigs, who we had seen recently, what big gigs we had been to, what gigs we maybe had both been at and missed each other. Eventually the stories drifted back to the good old days, memories of the gigs we went to together until we came to the question – what was the best gig we’ve seen. Not act, but the standalone best one and a half hours we’ve seen. Despite the hundreds of performances we had seen between us we both agreed almost instantly. Anthrax on the Sound of White Noise tour at the Barrowlands.
It’s really difficult to put my finger on why this was such a good gig. They weren’t my favourite band, in fact prior to John Bush joining I couldn’t really take to them. Sound of White Noise which was his first album with the band was a belter though, proper heavy and his voice was amazing on it. The problem I had was always (their 80’s heyday vocalist) Joey Belladonna’s voice; it wasn’t to my tastes. Bush’s more edgy vocal really suited me.
I wish I could sit and remember setlists and the like but the gig was 20 years ago (7th November 1993 to be exact) so all I’m left with are the feelings. I remember talking to a friend a couple of days afterwards and trying to explain just how brutal it had felt. Bearing in mind I had seen Pantera, Rage Against The Machine and Sepultura who were big bands to be compared with. Back then I just couldn’t get the words out. There are certain moments I recall. I was in my usual Barras spot, just to the right of centre facing the stage and maybe half a dozen rows from the front and looking back as the last song ‘Bring the Noise’ started. Honestly I’ve never seen the Barras bounce like this right to the back and finished with Bush climbing the speaker stack and somersaulting into the crowd – it was incredible!
On a more personal level I even got a snog off a girl during ‘Black Lodge’ which was a shocker as I definitely didn’t go to an Anthrax gig expecting romance! But it was the energy in the room. I’ve seen bands interviewed talking about the loop; energy coming from the crowd, fuelling them and they send the energy back out through the music to the crowd. This was like that, but you could almost see the energy. It’s what I go to gigs for – not the note perfect replication of the solos on the album but the visceral, almost primal power of being in the room as people are creating and recreating their art and of being able to be a part of that re-genesis.
It was a lightning in a bottle moment I think. I don’t know if they were on that form for the whole tour and would love to know what the band thought themselves about it. To me back in on that November night Anthrax conjured up the perfect storm and for 20 years have left me pretty much speechless trying to describe that night. I’ve seen the band twice since – once with Bush and once with Joey when he returned. I’ve enjoyed those gigs but they’ve not come close to that night in the Barras.
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