It’s a muggy Friday night in June, a heatwave sweeps its way across the UK’s second city, and a heavy metal legend has rolled into town. Phil Anselmo, former front man of metal titans Pantera, brings his latest outfit to Birmingham for the first time. Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals are a very different beast from his previous bands. The ensemble bring it heavy and extreme; a mix of thrash and grind core which should result in an assault on our senses tonight.
But there is no kidding anyone here, the majority queuing around the block to get into the venue are wearing Pantera shirts, it is the front man’s past more so than his present that has sold out the venue tonight.
The openers, and only supporting act of the evening, are Corby’s finest export Raging Speedhorn. The six piece have been together for over twenty years now, which is hard to believe, where does time go? They are given a full hour to show what they are made of and waste no time getting the capacity crowd whipped
into a frenzy. Kicking it off with ‘How Much Can A Man Take’, Frank Regan salutes the fans with a beer and the throbbing, violent pit kicks off in anger. The dual vocalists bring an angst and ferocity to the performance. John and Frank bounce off each other, stirring the crowd in with their battle cries.
‘Bring Out Your Dead’ has a dark feeling to it, heavy as hell in both tone and lyrical content. It’s slower pace consumes the crowd as they sing song. Older songs ‘Superscud’ and ‘Thumper’, for two decades the fans favourites, brutalise the already boisterous crowd, intensity personified. Before the set is rounded out with catchy number ‘Fuck The Voodoo Man’ and ‘Ten of Swords’. Quite the start to the evening and one that will be hard to follow.
The room is a sweaty mess even before the headliners arrive. 32 degree heat outside and a heaving mosh pit inside have turned the venue into a sauna.
As Phil warms up side of stage a hush settles over the awaiting audience, the fans cheer as one by one the band take to the stage and start with an instrumental intro, their time to shine before the eruption of the crowd as Phil arrives on stage.
The bands set is a tale of two halves, first up the band present us with their own material. ‘Bedridden’ and ‘Little Fucking Heroes’ to start with grinding guitars and Phils gruff voice meld into wave after wave of thrashy dirty sounds.
Anyone who saw Pantera live over the years knows Phil loves to talk, and we get the first of these chats next. He takes a crutch from a fan and plays to the crowd before we continue. For forty five minutes The
Illegals show us what they’ve got, trying to come out from underneath the looming shadow of Pantera and forge their own path.
Phil tells us about the idea behind the band in another spoken word segment, but says after Vinnie Paul’s passing there was one thing he had to do, and that was breathe life back into some of his classic material. We all know what’s coming next...
As the opening chords of ‘I’m Broken’ ring out the crowd go absolutely mental. The five hundred souls in the small venue are wall to wall bouncing, writhing around and singing. To hear these songs played live again, or for many to hear them live for the first time, is a sight they never thought would happen. Phil looks pleased with himself as they launch into ‘Fucking Hostile’ another crowd pleaser. The second half of the set is like a completely different show. The bands performance, the crowd reaction, Phil’s presence in this segment are juxtaposed to the first half. It shows there is still a huge demand for the music of his old outfit.
As the set is rounded out with ‘Walk’ we are left battered and bruised. The whole magnitude of the evening through Raging Speedhorn to reminiscing about the glory of Pantera has hit us all. A standing ovation is all that’s left to give Philip H. Anselmo on a job well done.