Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Killthrax Tour in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids' new 20 Monroe Live concert venue picked a good one for their first metal show: the Killthrax tour featuring Anthrax and Killswitch Engage. Both of those headliners played a full 90 minute set.
When I first saw the announcement for this come through my inbox, I was pretty surprised that Anthrax was still around. I listened to those guys 25 years ago in high school, but had pretty much lost track of them since college. Turns out they've been busy, even releasing a new album last year. All but one of the members were with the band back when I first encountered them (though some have left and come back a few times). They're not quite in Rolling Stones territory yet, but there's definitely some impressive longevity there.
20 Monroe Live has only been open for a few months, right downtown next to the BOB in Grand Rapids. This was my first visit, and I'd say they did a pretty good job with the place. Nice wide stage, elevated enough so that it's fairly easy to see from most anywhere on the floor. The acoustics seemed fine (though with thrash metal it's kinda hard to tell sometimes). A second level has reserved seats with a great view of the stage. My only complaint is that they put the restrooms on the second floor with only one main staircase for getting up and down, so it's terribly congested during breaks in the show.
I showed up a little late on purpose, since I knew the opening bands (Jasta and The Devil Wears Prada) would play for a while. I'm sure they're both fine, but after listening to their albums a bit on Spotify, I decided I didn't really care if I saw their entire sets. I caught the last few songs of The Devil Wears Prada, which seemed fine but aren't really my favorite style. (Side note - during the set change before Anthrax came on, I ran into a guy who actually recognized my Drain STH shirt. Since they haven't existed for nearly 20 years, it's a rare day when someone actually knows who they were! It goes without saying that both he and I were above the median crowd age.)
Anthrax was amazing, in my humble opinion. They looked like a group with 30 years of experience, comfortable on the stage and having fun. I'd been listening to them quite a bit for the last few weeks so I recognized a good number of the songs they played. Quite a few were older, including a couple from the Among the Living album and what may be the most recognizable Anthrax song, Antisocial. Those guys may be getting up there in age, but they haven't lost a step.
Killswitch Engage was a lot of fun as well. They've been around for nearly 20 years, which surprised me a bit when I looked it up. A way to go yet to catch the Anthrax guys, but that's a good long time, and they have plenty of material to show for it. At several different points they played three or four songs in a row in a kind of medley, which I thought was a cool way to give the set lineup some variety. Popular songs like My Last Serenade got played in full, though, which the crowd certainly seemed to appreciate.
Both headliners gave a fine performance, but personally I preferred Anthrax over Killswitch Engage. The old guy in me, I suppose. In any event, it was a great show that I'm glad came through my town.

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