PANTERA LIVE PHOTOS
By Greg Maki
In the 1990s, when groups were softening their sounds, embracing alt rock and grunge, and turning to nu metal in an effort to cling to relevance, no band stayed true and flew the flag for real heavy metal more than Pantera. If you weren’t around then, it might be hard to fully grasp how important this raucous foursome was to sustaining the genre. The Abbott brothers—guitarist Dimebag Darrell and drummer Vinnie Paul—are gone now, but there’s no need for their songs, the anthems of a genre of metalheads, to die with them. And the surviving members—vocalist Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown—certainly have the right to continue the band to which they gave so much of their lives.
So, with the blessing of the Abbotts’ estates, Anselmo and Brown have reconstituted Pantera, enlisting longtime friends Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne) on guitar and Charlie Benante (Anthrax) on drums. Call it what you want—reunion, tribute, cash grab, whatever—but the most important thing is this: The music of Pantera is alive and well in 2023.
The U.S. leg of the tour came to an end on a cool Friday night in Virginia, with thousands of metalheads young and old filling the amphitheater. To the naysayers, I say only this: See the band live. From their faces emblazoned on the bass drums to videos played before and during the performance, Dime and Vinnie were a presence throughout the night, and it’s hard to imagine better substitutes than Wylde and Benante. Did Zakk sound exactly like Dime? Of course not. He sounds like Zakk Wylde playing Pantera, same as he sounds like Zakk Wylde playing Randy Rhoads’ licks whenever he rips through “Crazy Train” or “Mr. Crowley.” Locking in with Benante and Brown, Zakk crushed the thunderous grooves and screaming solos while Anselmo more than held his own vocally. Phil has come a long way through the years, with his upbeat, appreciative demeanor hardly resembling his tough-guy act from the ‘90s or his drugged-out, barely there persona of the early 2000s.
The set list stuck mostly to Pantera’s best known songs, leaning heavily on “A Vulgar Display of Power” (1992) and “Far Beyond Driven” (1994), the band’s two most successful albums. I would have liked to hear a couple more from the underrated “Reinventing the Steel” (2000), though we did get “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit” from that album, a somewhat surprising choice for the encore and show-closer.
PANTERA SET LIST: “A New Level,” “Mouth for War,” “Strength Beyond Strength,” “Becoming,” “I’m Broken,” “Suicide Note Pt. II,” “5 Minutes Alone,” “This Love,” “Fucking Hostile,” “Planet Caravan,” “Walk,” “Domination/Hollow,” “Cowboys from Hell,” (encore) “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit”
Home state heroes Lamb of God provided direct support, which was fitting since I’ve always seen this band more than any other as the one carrying the torch that Pantera laid down following its dissolution in the early 2000s. Naturally, the quintet’s brand of groove metal went over exceedingly well with the Pantera crowd, and the 50-minute set felt far too short for an act capable of headlining arenas on its own. Highlights included newer tracks “Resurrection Man,” “Ditch” and “Omens,” along with old favorites “Walk with Me in Hell,” “Laid to Rest” and “Redneck.”
LAMB OF GOD SET LIST: “Memento Mori,” “Walk with Me in Hell,” “Resurrection Man,” “Ditch,” “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For,” “Omens,” “Ruin,” “Contractor,” “Laid to Rest,” “Redneck”
King Parrot, an Australian band that’s part of the stable of Anselmo’s Housecore Records, kicked off the evening as most fans either were getting drinks/food or filing into their seats. It’s a tough spot for a band to be in, especially with a dense grindcore sound that requires attention to decipher fully. Good on Anselmo and Pantera for exposing a more niche act like this to a larger audience.