Sunday, June 5, 2011

Belladonna - June 4, 2011 - McGuffy's House of Rock, Dayton, Ohio

On the virtual eve of a brand-spanking-new Belladonna-fronted Anthrax album, Joey Belladonna has embarked on a small-venue tour with his solo unit, Belladonna (Joey on vocals, R.C. Ciejek on bass, Dave King on guitar and Mike Merrifield on drums). Last night Joey and the band stopped in Dayton, Ohio prior to jetting off to Finland. An ego-free affair dedicated truly to the love of hard rock and heavy metal, Joey and the band interacted with each and every fan prior to the show and this felt like family from the first note. With a set chock-full of Anthrax classics and some great tributes to Ronnie James Dio (as well as one hell of a heavy metal medley totally off-the-cuff based on fans' t-shirts), this was a genuine treat for fans of music as opposed to any trend or scene.

The very local (Sidney, Ohio) Shattered Tragedy opened and, despite a real need to hone their stage presence, presented a respectable straight-up dual-guitar brand of power metal reminiscent of Iced Earth. I was very pleasantly surprised and hope that with some refinement to their live show (and a desperately-needed change of name) they solider on and continue to evolve. Dying To Meet You followed and were half-spectacular. Their thunderous rhythm section brought to mind the militant precision of Rage Against the Machine and the amount of sound coaxed from their single guitar was impressive. Vocals were generally of the screaming variety and the band only floundered when they slowed down for some very ill-advised Staind-y ballads (that they themselves described as "couples skate" music).

R.C. & Joey Belladonna
Dayton, OH 6/4/11
After manning their own merch table and chatting with fans for a couple hours prior, Belladonna took the stage and immediately started spreading the disease with a roaring "Among the Living." The energy of the relatively small turnout magnified and the band segued through "Medusa" and "In My World," setting the table for an evening full of '84-'88 Anthrax classics.

Joey took plenty of time to interact with fans between numbers and worked the crowd and the stage like a seasoned professional, recognizing fans from prior shows - and tours - and engaging everyone within earshot. He'd grab a fan's camera and snap some shots of the band and the crowd from the performer's perspective. For a $12 show, Belladonna delivered dividends aplenty.

Joey channels Dio
Joey paused now and then to ruminate on the state of metal in general and paid generous tribute to the departed Ronnie James Dio, launching into a majestically faithful rendition of "Heaven and Hell." A sea of maloik remained aloft for the song's entirety (and, really, for the whole damn show).

It was then back to Among the Living for a blazing "Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)" and the evening's sole State of Euphoria selection, "Antisocial." As "Caught in a Mosh" exploded the crowd moved back and, sure as shit, a mosh pit did indeed erupt. It was at this point that someone behind me proclaimed "Best. Concert. Ever." and, at that moment, I could not disagree.

Everything wound down with an informal back-and-forth with the crowd and Dave King demonstrated his prowess as a heavy metal jukebox, with Joey pointing out metal t-shirts in the crowd and Dave immediately replying with true-to-the-note riffs: Megadeth...Rush...Iron Maiden... and when he and Mike Merrifield launched into Pantera's "Walk" I honestly thought the roof was going to come off of the fucking building. A return to Anthrax's Fistful of Metal origins, "Metal Thrashing Mad," rode that wave of adrenaline to a fitting end.

l-r: R.C. Ciejek, Joey, Mike Merrifield, Dave King
McGuffy's House hath been fully Rocked.
The show closed not with a fake encore or another Anthrax favorite but instead with another heartfelt tribute to Ronnie Dio as Joey and Dave ended with an acoustic "Man on the Silver Mountain." A sincere valentine not only to Dio but to heavy metal itself, I can think of no better coda for the evening. An intimate evening with a great setlist, superb musicianship and absolutely zero in terms of ego and posturing, there was nothing else anyone could want from this show in this setting. Once Anthrax set out on tour with Joey Belladonna there's no way we'll be able to get this close and personal and it will no doubt deliver on the grand scale it deserves but, based on this evening at McGuffy's, wild horses couldn't keep me from another Belladonna show.

June 4, 2011 Setlist:
  1. Among the Living (Among the Living)
  2. Medusa (Spreading the Disease)
  3. In My World (Persistence of Time)
  4. Madhouse (Spreading the Disease)
  5. Got the Time (Persistence of Time)
  6. A.I.R. (Spreading the Disease)
  7. Indians (Among the Living)
  8. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath cover)
  9. Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.) (Among the Living)
  10. Antisocial (State of Euphoria)
  11. Caught in a Mosh (Among the Living)
  12. Metal T-Shirt Cover Medley
  13. Metal Thrashing Mad (Fistful of Metal - Neil Turbin-era)
  14. Man on the Silver Mountain (Rainbow cover - Acoustic)

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