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    Pantera with Lamb of God Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater Virginia Beach, VA (US) September 14, 2023

    Photography and review by Mike Spencer Photography

    Pantera with Lamb of God

    I have learned from many years in the music business that there are few constants. One of these is that if you pair heavyweights Lamb of God with Pantera, it’s going to be a night to remember.  This is exactly what happened at the local amphitheater.  Myself, fresh of a trip to Blue Ridge Rock Festival where both of these bands were supposed to perform, and it subsequently being cancelled, and neither band performing, this was a good way to get out some pent up frustration.

    Arriving at the venue, the first thing I notice is the typical metalheads that I am accustomed to seeing at shows I attend aren’t as predominant.  In fact, they seem to be a tad older. What are these older people doing out this late on a Thursday night?  Oh, wait, I AM one of these older people.  But I did see Pantera a few times with Dime and Vinnie, so there’s that.  When I first heard of the “reunion” memorialization tour announcement, I had mixed feelings on the concept.  How could you possibly think that any mortal human could ever think that they could fill those shoes?  We shall see how this is going to play out..

    As with any show there where there are going to be two powerhouses on stage, there must be an opener.  This night, the nod went to Australia’s’ King Parrot, a grindcore band with over a decade under their belts.  They were a different style of band from what the headliners were going to bring, but an interesting sound and stage presence.

    King Parrot

     

    The first full out assault on every sensory stimuli the human body can experience was about to happen.  Lamb of God.  Lamb of God or LoG is an American metal band that formed in Richmond, VA under a different name, Burn the Priest, in 1994.            Through some lineup changes and eventually adding Randy Blythe to handle vocals and changing the name to LoG, they started their current incarnation and haven’t looked back.  They have long been viewed as a band very similar to what Pantera was bringing to the music scene in the 90s, which was a full-on metal assault.  Countless tours and 11 studio albums later and here we are.  They hit the stage, and what stood out for me first was that Randy has decided to forego his signature dreadlocks and instead go with a buzz cut.  My initial thought is that a band I’ve seen countless times over the years is getting more refined in the metal world.  Whoops.  Any questions on that subject were defiantly answered with the opening song Memento Mori.  The dreads were done but the ferocity of a LoG show wasn’t.  This band has been around for over 25 years and 3 out of five of the members have been there for almost all of it with bassist John Campbell having been there from the very beginning. Lead guitarist Mark Morton did step away from the band in the very early years to pursue his master’s degree, but that was only a 2-year hiatus.  When Pantera had stopped functioning as a band in 2001, LoG stepped in and filled that void.  LoG presented a 10-song set that showcased their entire career up to this point; blistering guitars, a solid low end and in your face vocals, along with Randy’s signature jumps off the drum riser.

    Lamb of God

    All in all, a solid set as expected with a setlist of:

    1. Memento Mori
    2. Walk With Me in Hell
    3. Resurrection Man
    4. Ditch
    5. Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
    6. Omens
    7. Ruin
    8. Contractor
    9. Laid to Rest
    10. Redneck

    Lamb of Gods members are:

    John Campbell – bass

    Randy Blythe – vocals

    Mark Morton – lead guitar

    Willie Adler – rhythm guitar

    Art Cruz – drums

    But this was just the quiet before the storm.  Next up was one of the bands that most people pay homage to for helping shape the metal world into what we know and love today, Pantera.  They are part of what is known as the 2nd wave of thrash metal that started in the late 80s and into the 90s.  The band was formed by brothers Darrell (Dimebag) and Vinnie Abbott in Texas (US) along with bassist Rex Brown.  The lineup solidified in the late 80s when Phil Anselmo joined the band on vocals.  They released an album together Power Metal in 1988, which was the first glimpse of what Pantera’s sound was going to be going forward.  It was heavier and had more of a harder edge. About this time, Megadeth tried to recruit Dimebag to join their band, but it never came to be as Darrell wasn’t going to go there if his brother wasn’t part of the deal and that fell through as Megadeth had just hired a new drummer. Had that happened, some of the most classic albums of the period may never have been recorded because in 1990, Pantera released one of the most definitive albums in the metal genre, ever. In July of 1990, they released Cowboys from Hell, and with strategic tour focuses, quickly became one of the most loved bands of the era.  They followed this with Vulgar Display of Power, Far Beyond Driven and eventually The Great Southern Trendkill. On this last tour, there were some questionable antics and comments by Phil resulting in tensions in the band.  Phil was going through some medical challenges and self-medicated himself to help him deal with the pain caused by performing. The tensions continued in the band through the recording and touring for Panteras last studio album, Reinventing the Steel in 2000.  Phil worked on some of his side projects during this time and the brothers Abbott disbanded Pantera in 2003.  Everyone went their separate ways with Dimebag and Vinnie forming a new band Damage Plan. This was the band that in 2004, shortly after taking the stage in Columbus, OH (US), a man walked on stage and shot Dimebag, killing him, along with three other people, and wounding two others before being killed himself. The animosity between Vinnie and Phil was never worked out and according to Vinnie in later interviews, no reunion was ever going to happen.  Vinnie went on to work on a collaboration with members of Mudvayne and Nothingface which was known as Hellyeah.  In 2012, there were rumors of a potential one-off reunion with Zakk Wylde who is known for his work with Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society.  Vinnie Paul said a reunion might be possible if Dimebag was still alive. Phil and Rex Brown continued their work with their band Down.  In 2018, Vinnie Paul passed away at the age of 54.  In 2022, it was announced that Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown were going to reform Pantera for a tour that would include Zakk Wylde on guitar, and Charlie Benante, who is the drummer for Anthrax. But that was the music history lesson for the day.  Well, other than the fact that I saw Pantera in their heyday and was somewhat apprehensive about the modern-day version.  I have always been a fan of Zakk and Charlie in their respective bands and have seen them many, many times. But we’re talking about some seriously big shoes to fill. It would be like trying to find a replacement for Eddie Van Halen.  Could these people measure up? Well, they hit the stage opening their set with Regular People (Conceit) off Vulgar Display of Power. All of my apprehension faded quickly and I soon realized that there really wasn’t any living guitarist who could fill those shoes better than Zakk  He could keep up with the riffs and didn’t try to “improve” them with his unique style.  But with that said, he does have his own style and that style makes the performance that much better. He’s not Dime.  Charlie isn’t Vinnie. But they don’t have to be. By the end of the first song, I realized that these were the absolute best choices to pay homage to two greats and to give those in attendance the chance to not only relive the past, but also to look towards the future.  The second song of the set was In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song) a cover of a song by Peter Ivers and David Lynch.  Not a metal song in its original composition, but a fitting tribute to the brothers Abbott. And then it was time to let people know that they were back and ready to go.  Phil’s vocals were on point, Rex was just like I remembered him on bass. Charlie was keeping time with his usual flair and Zakk was on fire.  Next up was a fan favorite, A New Level. That was the point where you knew the cost of admission was well worth it.  This was followed by Mouth for War. And the hits kept coming.  At numerous times there were references and tributes to Dime and Vinnie, and these were done with class and dignity.  A solid performance along with a fitting tribute to two of the masters of the genre.  I won’t ruin all the surprises of the set but will say that you really need to see it to fully grasp the significance of the performance.

    Panteras set consisted of 18 songs:

    1. Regular People (Conceit)
    2. In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)
    3. A New Level
    4. Mouth for War
    5. Strength Beyond Strength
    6. Becoming
    7. I’m Broken
    8. Suicide Note Pt. II
    9. 5 Minutes Alone
    10. This Love
    11. Fucking Hostile
    12. Cemetery Gates
    13. Planet Caravan (Black Sabbath cover)
    14. Walk
    15. Domination / Hollow
    16. Cowboys From Hell
    17. Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit
    18. How Soon Is Now?

    Pantera members on the tour:

    Rex Brown – bass, backing vocals

    Phil Anselmo – lead vocals

    Zakk Wylde – guitars, backing vocals

    Charlie Benante – drums

    If they come anywhere near you, you really need to see this tour. It really is exceptional on every level.

     

     

     

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