Cephalic Carnage talks a lot about its love for THC-related products on stage. "Lucid Interval," for example, is evidently about being totally stoned and sober at the same time. Just the same, most of the songs written by the band, at least those not written about other hedonistic pastimes such as compulsive self-love ("Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder"), address the folly of humankind. "Misled by Certainty," we were informed, is a kind of warning against being absolutely certain of anything to the point of not questioning even one's core assumptions.
But Cephalic wasn't all marijuana and existential issues. At one point, for the band's black-metal song, everyone donned costumes of one stripe or another. The bassist wore a horse's head, like he had seen The Godfather one too many times, while the rest wore evil, clownish masks and made the stage look like a gathering of the masked icon of the Saw series.
Cephalic had just returned from a European tour, and it showed a little, but it did not prevent the guys from executing their songs with confidence and humor. The newer material sounded like a slight departure from the technically proficient, jazz-inflected metal of years past, and not brutal so much as heavier.
Before Anthrax took the stage, the room went dark and air-raid siren sounds filled it with samples of voices commenting or saying various things in the background. Everyone took the stage one by one, beginning with Scott Ian, who played the opening strains of "Among the Living." In response to this, naturally, the crowd went a little wild, even more so when Joey Belladonna finally took the stage and sang one of the band's most beloved songs. A sizable portion of the crowd knew most of the words and sang along heartily, so much so that at times, Belladonna extended his mike into the crowd to exchange choruses.
Before long, the band realized that this was a wildly enthusiastic crowd clearly familiar with its classic material, and it responded in kind with the type of performance that comes from being in a good mood and feeling appreciated by the people who showed up. Throughout the show, numerous people rode the crowd to the barricade in front of the stage. The security at the Summit was prepared for this kind of thing, so everyone who rode the crowd too far got deposited on the ground and sent on his merry way.
Drawing from all of its albums through the first Belladonna era, Anthrax closed its main set with "A.I.R" and then returned shortly thereafter for a two-song encore that kicked off with "NFL" and had the crowd filling in missing lyrics. The whole thing ended with Belladonna teasing the lyrics to "TNT," by AC/DC. Partially joined by a musician or two, he joked, "I bet we could pull that off right now."
Instead, Belladonna and company played "I Am the Law." Before leaving stage, the singer told us that they'd definitely be coming back to Denver to tour the new album. Ian, not one to mince words, added that it had been a privilege to play for us tonight, without one ounce of fake rock-star bravado.
Click through for Critic's Notebook and Setlist
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Been a bit of an Anthrax fan since the '80s. Random Detail: Charlie Benante had the Jaws movie poster artwork on the face of both of his bass drums. By the Way: Anthrax without Joey Belladonna is not nearly as good.
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Anthrax 10.18.10 | Summit Music Hall Denver, CO
01. Among the Living 02. Caught in a Mosh 03. Got the Time 04. Madhouse 05. Be All, End All 06. Antisocial 07. Indians 08. Medusa 09. Fight 'Em Til You Can't 10. Only 11. Metal Thrashing Mad 12. A.I.R.
13. NFL 14. I Am the Law