The Barrowlands was in melt down on arrival. A queue spun round the block, and the next block again. Some sort of technical glitch led to a late door. And the rain began to drizzle down on the assembled middle aged moshers.
For those not lucky enough to have visited Barrowlands, probably my favourite venue, it is UTTERLY unique. Tucked away in Glasgow close to somewhere ambitiously called High Street, it’s surrounded by pubs only the brave drink in, fast food dives punctuating the gloom between. The frontage is a wild fifty-odd foot high wall of neon, advertising the place, and the staff are in your face and friendly all at once. Once inside it feels like a giant club, an ex-ballroom turned into an amazing music venue with sprung floor, low ceiling and normally truly great sound. We took our place close to the entrance on one of the two low steps, stage left.
The place was about half full when it became clear that the timeline was still going to be followed despite the late entry and the opening part of “Uprising” heralded The Raven Age. I’ve seen them support Steve Harris (guitarist George is his son, but this is no sycophantic sleigh ride), Tremonti and then Maiden, and have loved wearing out their e.p. But they started sounding terrible, so bad that we thought about moving before realising the technical glitches that had delayed our entrance must have had something to do with them.
It was soon gathered up and they raced through all of that e.p., chucked in a few new ones that will feature on their debut album, and did all they could. I have to say they felt a little subdued for me, space on stage limited and the problems clearly affecting their gig. “The Death March” still delighted and it all seemed to come fully back together for the closing couplet of current single “Salem’s Fate” and “oldie” “Angel In Disgrace”, but I think this audience was maybe of too great a vintage to really dig the band’s intriguing fusion of metalcore, melodic metal and clean vocals.
We didn’t have to wait too long for the mighty Anthrax to come into view. I first saw them support Iron Maiden in the late eighties and loved albums two, three and four. I then caught up with them as guests of Slayer just over a year ago and, despite not thinking much of their relatively recent album of covers and the live from Chile offering, I did enjoy that show. Given that this gig was featuring album three, Among The Living, in full I was looking forward to the show.
Once the intros were done they immediately launched into a crisp rendition of “AIR”, followed by “Madhouse” from the same album. The crowd were immediately onside, the bulk having probably bought Spreading The Disease along with me back in 1985. It made fitting in new tracks, such as “Evil Twin” and “Blood Eagle Wings”, all the easier as they knocked shoulders with more classics such as “Medusa” and one of my all-time faves, “Be All, End All”.
The band was thumping away, clearly loving the venue and crowd and confirmed that the ongoing filming meant they had selected Glasgow to record a DVD. If you’ve never been to a metal show in Glasgow get yourself along and find out why… The band were in great form, the crowd as wild as Glasgow offers, and it seemed like it couldn’t stop, even for a breath.
And then, in as un-metal a way as possible, they had an interval! This lengthy interlude saw the installation of two sets of steps, two slopes and the exposure of some steam vents, but seemed largely pointless. The ageing crowd maybe welcomed the toilet break but it was an odd stutter in the pace.
Fortunately they returned with Among The Living in full. Here they came into their stomptastic best on tracks like “Caught In A Mosh”, destroyed all comers with “I Am The Law” and ramped it up towards the utter intensity of “A Skeleton In The Closet”. “Indians” then saw the customary war dance before album closer “Imitation Of Life” closed it out brilliantly. Matters were already well over curfew so it was a delight to see them then finish off with “Antisocial”, none of the energy having gone from either the stage or the crowd. I’m sure they’ll be financially punished for such a run over but the forthcoming DVD wouldn’t be the same without it. We trickled out after eleven twenty, unheard of in the UK.
Scott Ian was full of presence all night and clearly loved the venue, the crowd and the vibe. His riffs hang the whole band together alongside the rhythms of Benante and Bello. Singer Joey Belladonna was on top form, theatrically pointing his way through the gig. He donned a native American headdress from the crowd, served the front rows with energy drinks and even picked up one of the hand held cameras to film the crowd at one point. I have to say his voice seemed surprisingly resilient, only wobbling a little in the demands of “Imitation Of Life”, and he really kept it all rolling along.
This was a night for nostalgia but at the same time Anthrax clearly made a statement that they remain current, undoubtedly heavy and true to their thrashing roots. And Glasgow rocked.
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