The only times I venture to Syracuse are for my yearly pilgrimage to the New York State Fair and to attend concerts at the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater. Last night it was the latter. I made the two-hour trek, in the rain, to see metal icons Pantera with special guest Lamb of God.
Make no mistake – while this was no true reunion without the Abbott brothers shredding on guitar and drums, Pantera’s surviving members Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown did unleash a heartfelt tribute alongside famed Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante and Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde. Both along on a world tour celebrating Pantera’s legacy.
Right from the beginning they demanded the crowd’s attention with a setlist packed with selections from Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven. Anselmo’s guttural growls on white-knuckle ragers like “5 Minutes Alone” and “I’m Broken” proved that his vulgarly heroic voice was as virile as ever with Charlie and Zakk injecting electrifying new life into the classics.
“Kinder and Gentler”
Anselmo was less menacing than in the past. Instead, he appeared more grateful, frequently nodding in approval, pointing to the audience, and holding his hand to his heart or gesturing towards the sky.
Benante crushed the kit with a machine gun double bass, channeling Vinnie Paul’s pummeling power. And though no one can truly replace Dimebag’s devilish fretwork, Wylde ripped squealing solos that made you feel the late legend shredding right there in spirit. Photos of the brothers adorned Benante’s bass drum, while “St. Dime” blazed across Wylde’s vest – poignant reminders that Pantera’s two fallen founders still ruled the roost. With, of course, Rex Brown holding down the ship with seismic bass lines.
In tribute to the Abbott brothers, a taped version of “Cemetary Gates” with video paid tribute on both the venue’s large screens. Anselmo then whipped the crowd into a frenzy with the classics “Walk” (NY native Joey Belladonna of Anthrax joined on stage) and “Cowboys From Hell. They reverberated with Dimebag’s devilish spirit. Vinnie’s pounding beats were absent. But you could feel his presence in every earth-shaking groove.
COWBOYS FROM HELL
The bittersweet magic of this show proved that while tragedy took two irreplaceable legends too soon, Pantera’s pummeling metal legacy will never die. Anselmo and Brown honored the face-melting mayhem that seized the ’90s in a raw, real way. While no one can ever fill Dimebag and Vinnie’s shoes, this show let their signature shred soar once more. The crowd roared as Pantera rode again – and the Abbott brothers headbanged right there with them.
Though Pantera called it quits in 2003, this show let a new generation of fans get lethally loud with metal royalty. As Anselmo said, it takes “awesome parenting” to school your kids in sublime sonic brutality. But most in attendance were well-versed, roaring along to the rudest of riffs.
Pantera rode again – an earth-shaking show in honor of two irreplaceable legends. By the end, you could feel the Abbott brothers smiling from the great gig in the sky on a school night.