Anthrax, Black Label Society and Exodus Live in Chicago-January 29, 2023

Thrash metal legends celebrated a milestone.

Date: Sunday, January 29, 2023

Place: Radius Chicago (640 West Cermak Road, Chicago, IL 60616)

Ticket Price: $45 ( $62.12 after fees and taxes)

This was my first time seeing a show at this venue. I actually hadn’t heard of it before. Radius Chicago is a new place in the city that recently opened up at the worst possible time, in February 2020. That was about a month before the lockdowns started from the Covid pandemic, which took until last year for everywhere to finally fully open back up. The building used to be a old steel factory in the East Pilsen neighborhood. They seem to do a lot of electronic music shows there now.

I wasn’t actually sure who would headline and close out this show. It wasn’t clear by anything online, so I thought it might be a co-headline thing. Black Label Society is the bigger mainstream band but it was also Anthrax’s 40th anniversary tour. Anthrax’s 40th anniversary was actually in 2021 but the Covid pandemic and the lockdowns stopped that from being properly celebrated. The band’s first album Fistful of Metal was recorded in 1983 but came out in January 1984. I was trying to remember, but I think this was my fourth time seeing them. I think I first saw them in October 2011 with Death Angel and Testament at the Congress Theater in Chicago. The last time I saw them was at Riot Fest 2019. Anthrax is one of my favorites and were one of the first thrash bands I got into as a teenager. Their last album released in February 2016 called For All Kings, which is actually some of the best stuff they’ve put out. Worship Music from 2011 is another great album, which was Joey Belladonna’s big return to the band. It’s getting to that time where they should put out another new album.

This was the second leg of Anthrax’s North American tour with Black Label, which started last summer along with Hatebreed for 24 shows. They didn’t come to Chicago last year though. There were also 24 shows on this tour, which started on Jan. 17 in Boise, Idaho and ended on Feb. 18 in Oakland, California.

Exodus was one of the major metal bands I had yet to see live. It just never happened. I was supposed to catch one of their shows a few years ago but it fell through. The last time they were here last May with Testament and Death Angel for the “Bay Area Strikes Back Tour” the show actually sold out before I could get tickets. Bonded By Blood is an all-time thrash metal classic that I love and listened to probably a thousand times but Pleasures of the Flesh (1987) is actually my favorite album of theirs. It’s probably one of my favorite metal albums period. The guitars sound so ripping together on that album. Steve “Zetro” Souza is currently on vocals for the band, who was their second singer from 1986 up until the band disbanding in 1993. He had been fired in 2004 a few years after the band reunited and came back in 2014 after Rob Dukes was also fired. I’ve seen Gary Holt a few times live playing for Slayer and he was great. Holt is a fantastic guitar player and has always come up with sick riffs and solos on every Exodus album. Exodus’ last album Persona Non Grata released in November 2021, which is a pretty good record. The last album before that was Blood In, Blood Out from October 2014 so it was a while before they put out new music. Lee Atlus from Heathen is still on lead guitar after replacing Rick Hunolt in 2005, together with long-time member Jack Gibson on bass and original drummer/band member Tom Hunting. Exodus is easily as important historically as the Big Four thrash bands, having actually finished Bonded By Blood way before it officially released in 1985. That album delay and other issues kept Exodus from reaching those same commercial levels as the other four bands in the ’80s and they broke up in the early ’90s. I think Holt touring with Slayer for many years after Jeff Hanneman’s death in 2013 probably slowed things down a bit in the modern era but Exodus always put out really solid music.

I’ve never seen Black Label Society or Zakk Wylde live either. I bought their sixth album Mafia when it first came out in March 2005. I was a freshman in high school. That’s a fantastic record. It’s still one of my favorite albums. A lot of the band’s albums after that sound the same though, especially their new stuff. He’s got a formula for the albums that all sounds pretty similar now. Their last record called Doom Crew Inc. released in November 2021, which is their 11th studio album since the band’s formation in 1998. I’ve never gone out of my way to see Black Label live. I regret that now after going to this show.

Charlie Benante wasn’t drumming for Anthrax on this show. I guess he had some sort of procedure done so he had to miss some of the shows on this tour. Derek Roddy filled in for him. I wasn’t really familiar with Roddy but he killed on the drums during this show. He has been in bands like Malevolent Creation, Nile and Hate Eternal and has a strong reputation as being one of the best drummers out there. Benante is one of my favorite drummers so it kinda sucked not to be able to see him again. There’s also the connection between Anthrax and Black Label Society as Benante and Wylde are in the new Pantera reunion band and doing shows together.

There were already a ton of people outside waiting in line when I got to Radius around 5:30 p.m., like hundreds of people. The doors were supposed to open at 5:30 but I figured there wouldn’t be a lot of people there yet with the show actually starting at 6:30. I thought I had gotten there early enough. It was pretty cold outside so I didn’t want to get there super early and have to stand a long time. This show used the AXS app for the tickets, which I hate. Radius have their own parking lot, but the price was like $40 or something so there was no way I was paying that. I found a free parking spot around the block on the street. The whole area is kind of shady though, and I had to walk through this sort of underpass with a little homeless camp right nearby it to get to the building’s entrance. They started letting people in at 5:41 and I got in about 10 minutes later.

Inside they had a lot of merchandise for all three bands. A lot of people were in line for it. Anthrax had some great 40th anniversary shirts and cool artwork on them. The t-shirts were mostly $40 and the long sleeves were $50 for all three bands. They also had a signed Anthrax poster for $75. One of the Black Label Society shirts is basically the Warzone logo off that old New York hardcore band’s 1987 album Don’t Forget the Struggle, Don’t Forget the Streets. That’s what I thought of when I saw it. The line was too long the first time around so I waited until after the show to buy something, otherwise I would have probably missed the opening for Exodus. After looking around the building for a bit I went up and waited near the front of the stage. I was only a few rows back from the barricade.

The place got super packed pretty quickly. There were way more people than I expected. The inside of Radius is absolutely massive. It’s an incredibly big music venue, probably the biggest I’ve been to. I don’t know how the people who own it can even afford this place on top of paying all the employees and other stuff. It probably fits several thousand people. You could just walk around the whole place. It’s a really cool spot and pretty nice inside. The place is so big that it has a few bars and food areas inside located at different parts of the main floor. The audio quality in the building is great. The stage has a lot new lights and features too. You could tell they put a lot of money into this space and its remodeling. I hope they’re actually able to sustain it and stay open for a long time but the rent and taxes on the property have to be insane.

There’s definitely a lot of that biker gimmick stuff with the Black Label fans and the image of the band itself. I don’t know how much of that is legitimate or whether it’s basically all cosplay. The fans of the band are called chapters based on where they live like the Chicago chapter, similar to a motorcycle club. They also call fans part of the Black Label Society family. When Zakk started out with Ozzy Osbourne back in the day he definitely didn’t look like that biker type at all. They do play it up for their fans. It does come across as poser stuff sometimes. There were a lot of people there for Black Label Society. You could tell by the shirts and other stuff they wore. A lot of them also had the biker vest on with the Black Label name and logo on the back of it. That could be why there were so many people there at this show. There were a lot of Black Label fans standing around near me. I was kind of surprised at the turnout. By the time the show got started it was already a packed house. This show was or definitely close to being a sellout.

Exodus killed. They’re a band that could headline any night, so for them to open one is a great way to start a show. At 6:28 the room went dark and “We Will Rock You” by Queen started playing before Exodus came on stage. The band opened with “The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)” from their new album. They didn’t have a lot of room on stage because all the other bands’ equipment were behind them. “Beatings” was a good, quick intro song that’s pretty thrashy. The crowd were super loud for the band’s start. They went into “A Lesson in Violence” from Bonded by Blood and then “Blood In, Blood Out” from that album. It was cool finally hearing “A Lesson in Violence” live and seeing the band perform after listening to it on the album so many times. “Blood In, Blood Out” is a great live song too because of the vocal delivery by Souza with the backing vocals that Exodus are known for. One of my favorite songs they played next was “Blacklist” from Tempo of the Damned (2004), which came out when I was in eighth grade. I never really listened to that album before but had most of the proceeding Rob Duke albums like Shovel Headed Kill Machine when they came out. They didn’t play any of the Rob Dukes-era songs, but then again they didn’t have that much time to either. “Blacklist” has this real sick, groovy riff throughout it and Souza sounded great. It’s a killer live song that’s fun to sing along to. Hearing and seeing it live definitely changed my opinion of the song.

The fifth song they did was “Piranha” from Bonded by Blood. As Paul Baloff used to say about the song, “it ain’t about no goldfish, and it ain’t about no tuna fish, and it ain’t about no trout!” I love the song. It’s one of my favorites from the band. Exodus went into “Prescribing Horror” next, another new song from their latest album. It’s slow-paced but in a good placement in the set. They ended and faded out the song with a baby crying, like on the album. It’s kind of weird but I guess fits the song’s theme. The next song was “Bonded by Blood,” which Souza dedicated to someone in the crowd. Souza’s vocals were really good. Gary Holt’s solo sounded really good too. After the song Souza said the band has been bonded by blood with Chicago for a long time. He said that the night before they were in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and there were seats up to the front of the stage. By his reactions on stage, Lee Atlus was not happy about that. Souza said they when they see Chicago on the tour list they look forward to it.

The next song they went into was “Toxic Waltz.” I never cared much for “Toxic Waltz” even though that’s one of the band’s most popular songs. It’s kind of like one of their anthems. I thought the lyrics were kind of cheesy and also part of that Fabulous Disaster album having too much gang vocals across the whole record. I haven’t listened to it in a long time though. “Toxic Waltz” sounded really good live so I was wrong about it. Before they actually went into it though, Holt played the “Raining Blood” riff from Slayer but then stopped. “Toxic Waltz” had several crowd surfers pushed to the front and picked up by security. There was a mosh pit going the whole song in the center of the crowd but the place is so vertically long that it was hard to see the action. The guitar soloing from Holt and Altus on the song were pretty awesome live. I think they were better than on the album. “Toxic Waltz” is a really good live song and vibe. People were singing along too.

Tom Hunting on drums killed it the whole night, which is great to see because he has had cancer and other health issues in recent years. Souza said there was only one song they can end an Exodus setlist with and that was “Strike of the Beast.” It’s another song from Bonded by Blood, which was the most played album on this set. Zetro stopped singing at the halfway point, before the song starts to pick up speed again and then goes into the guitar solos. He told the crowd to open the pit up. It got huge and when the riff kicked in again the crowd went crazy. Both Exodus and Anthrax had a lot of crowd surfers, with security pulling them down. There was a barricade and space separating the stage from the crowd so there were no stage divers. Exodus ended their set at 7:14 after playing nine songs. “We Are the Champions” by Queen was their outro song. Souza seemed really cool. He would shake hands and pound fists with fans after they were dropped down by security from crowd surfing. Exodus had a pretty amazing set. They sounded awesome. Zetro’s voice sounded great live. The guitars sounded killer. It was fun seeing Holt play his own songs live and not just with Slayer. He’s such an amazing guitarist and especially live. He has a great stage presence too. It would have been cool to see something from Pleasures of the Flesh but maybe another time.

Black Label Society were really great. Seeing Zakk Wylde playing guitar in person is really awesome. He’s one of the few guys left from that era of just insane guitar players, like an Eddie Van Halen. You don’t see many guys like that anymore. To see him play guitar live is pretty special. His playing is pretty mind-blowing. It’s basically a lost art and there aren’t many guys at that level anymore, particularly new people in the mainstream arena of music. Zakk is a really charismatic and funny guy too. He reminds me of a pro wrestler, especially with how physically big he is. A big Black Label Society flag came down in front of the stage after Exodus finished. The lights went off at 7:37. The song “Whole Lotta Sabbath” by Wax Audio played, which is a mash-up of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath and “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. It’s a really sick song that I don’t think I ever heard before. A lot of the crowd were singing along to the “War Pigs” lyrics, which was pretty cool to be around. The band waited to pull up the BLS flag before they appeared on stage. The first song they did was “Funeral Bell” from The Blessed Hellride (2003). The stage had a cool set up, with a massive wall of guitar amps and Zakk’s mic stand that had skulls all over the base and a cross on top of it. There was also a little area that Zakk could stand on and play guitar. The Radius had a big video screen behind the stage, which for Black Label changed depending on the song they were playing and the album it was from.

The second song they went into was “The Beginning‚Ķ At Last” from Sonic Brew (2001). That’s one of my favorite songs of the band’s. After that they played “Destroy & Conquer” from their new album followed by “Destruction Overdrive” from The Blessed Hellride. For the first few songs Zakk’s voice almost sounded like his guitar, kind of like him hitting the whammy bar on it. His singing got better later in the show but it was a bit rough at first. Early on Zakk kept raising his fist in the air while playing when he was standing on top of the elevated stage area. I’m not really familiar with the band’s members outside of Zakk, so I was surprised to see their other guitarist Dario Lorina, who is a really skinny and young looking guy. He joined the band in 2014. He was also in the biker wardrobe and actually looked kind of out of place with it. Looks can be deceiving though because he ripped on guitar all night and kept up with Zakk.

Before going into the next song “Heart of Darkness” from Catacombs of the Black Vatican (2014), Zakk posed on stage and got the crowd pumped up. The bass playing from longtime member John DeServio sounded really great all night. It sounded really good on “Heart of Darkness.” Zakk would switch guitars a lot like between each song. The sixth song they played was “A Love Unreal” from Grimmest Hits (2018). The guitar soloing from Zakk on this one was pretty incredible in person. After that they played another new song “You Made Me Want to Live,” which is a more mellow and slower track. Zakk’s singing was more of a focus as the rest of the instruments were more quiet. His singing on this song live was way better than some of the earlier songs. It’s a good live song and would probably make a good single or for radio play if they still did those.

They played the tribute song “In This River” from Mafia next for Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul of Pantera. There was a piano set up to the right of the stage that Zakk played on. Before he started playing, Zakk said he had a question for the Chicago chapter of the almighty. He was like is it bikini season outside, no, it’s Chicago Bears season. Ditka versus Godzilla, who wins that fight. Can you dig it? It was kind of a funny ramble. He gave a shoutout to the Chicago Black Label family and then started playing the song on piano. There were a lot of pictures on the screens behind the band accompanying the song of both Dimebag and Vinnie and some of them together with Zakk. It’s a great tribute to see live and is still pretty touching. Zakk was great on piano and it’s cool to see that different side of him.

“Trampled Down Below” from Grimmest Hits (2018) was the next song. There were a lot of changing stage lights during this one. Zakk threw down another sick guitar solo during this song. It was amazing live. They followed that with “Set You Free,” another new one from Doom Crew Inc. Zakk’s vocals sounded really good on this one too. Lorina actually got on the elevated stage after Zakk and started playing. They were doing a lot of back and forth guitar solos, which were pretty awesome live. A lot of the songs they did sounded more interesting in person than on the albums. The drumming was excellent the whole set too. The whole band sounded really tight together. The new songs sounded good live too.

They threw beach balls out into the crowd at the beginning of “Fire It Up,” which was cool and unexpected for this type of show. The beach balls were going everywhere. Both Zakk and Dario were playing guitar solos and really extended the song out by several minutes. They both got on the elevated stage area and put the guitars behind their heads and kept playing and soloing. That was really cool to see live. After the song Zakk said that the father from the Las Vegas chapter is 300 pounds of steroid muscle. Dario pounded his chest, which made me pop pretty hard. That whole thing was a hilarious moment, especially given how small the guy actually is. “Suicide Messiah” from Mafia was next. One of their road crew guys came out on stage with a megaphone and said the “suicide messiah” part of the chorus. That actually made the live version a lot cooler. Hearing that song live transported me back to high school. The song was so good live. The band did some instrumental part next, with rotating solos from both guys. They both shared the higher stage. This detour was pretty great live. Zakk again shouted out the Chicago chapter of the almighty Black Label Society. The last song they played was “Stillborn” from The Blessed Hellride. It’s one of the band’s best songs and killed live.

Black Label ended their set at 8:57 after playing 13 songs. They all came on stage and bowed together. Zakk threw out a sweaty towel he just wiped his face with right near me but some kid and his dad caught it. I joked with them that hopefully the guy wasn’t sick tonight. Zakk got on the elevated stage and kept hyping up the crowd. It felt very much like pro wrestling. He did like a military salute to the crowd when he was done. I really want to see Black Label Society again. Before this show I probably wouldn’t have checked them out unless Anthrax was on the show. The band puts on a pretty incredible live show and is worth it just to experience all the guitar playing and shredding going on from Zakk. He’s one of the best guitarists ever and seeing him play in person is definitely a bucket list experience.

Anthrax were pretty amazing on this night. Belladonna still sounds awesome live. It’s too bad they never did a tour with both Belladonna and John Bush on the same shows, especially something for this special anniversary. A band like Helloween have done something similar with their different singers, even having Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske and Andi Deris all on vocals throughout their last album. I’m a huge Bush fan and really like that period of his with Anthrax. I know a lot of fans hate it since they moved away from thrash metal but they made some great music, especially the last album they did together We’ve Come for You All (2003). Bush is also one of my favorite singers and it’s great to see him still killing it now with Armored Saint. The setlist on this show was pretty predictable as it featured all of Anthrax’s hit songs. There were no surprises, outside of maybe “Metal Thrashing Mad.” It’s actually hard to include more stuff for a 40th anniversary show unless they played like over two hours. On this show they played an hour and 15 minutes. They could have easily doubled that with a lot more songs. A lot of people are also expecting to hear all the songs they know and not much deviation from them. At this point in the show before Anthrax I could barely move because there were so many people around me.

Before hitting the stage, Anthrax played a pretty lengthy introductory video of a bunch of other musicians and famous people talking about the band’s influence and their anniversary. It was a cool video package that featured a ton of people. Some of the people featured were Keanu Reeves, Lady Gaga, Gene Simmons, Henry Rollins, Norman Reedus, Dee Snider, John Carpenter and others from bands like Tom Morello, Corey Taylor, Joey Vera, Rob Trujillo, Chuck D, Slash, Dave Mustaine, Rob Zombie, Kerry King and even Roger Miret. It was a pretty long video. The crowd would cheer each time a new person came on the video and popped pretty loud for many of them.

After the video, Anthrax appeared on stage and opened their set at 9:34 with “Among the Living.” There were a lot of cool flashing red lights on the stage. They also had a really sick banner behind the stage of the band and logos from their different albums. The whole stage design was pretty awesome. The first song was a really hot opener and the band sounded awesome. The energy was strong right away. The second song they played was “Caught in a Mosh,” which was also really great. The crowd was super into it. Afterwards Joey asked if we were all ready to get our asses kicked. The next song they played was “Madhouse.” The tone of the guitars sounded pretty awesome, like how it was on Spreading the Disease. Scott Ian went hard all night on guitar and was headbanging a lot during the set. His neck must be thrashed after all these years. He still brings it on these live shows.

“Metal Thrashing Mad” from Fistful of Metal has always been one of my favorite Anthrax songs. They played it as their fourth song. It still holds up live decades later. It was really cool to see them perform the song live. Joey asked the crowd afterwards who was there for the first time to see Anthrax. A lot of people cheered and raised their hands. The fifth song they did was “Keep It In the Family” from Persistence of Time. Many in the crowd sang along and knew the song. Anthrax changed several lyrics from the song, namely the derogatory racial wording that was in the original version. The song was really good live. The whole band sounded great on it. There were several crowd surfers throughout the band’s set. Persistence of Time is one of my all-time favorite records. I wish they would have done more off that album. I would love to see a show where they just played that whole record. It came out in August 1990, so the 30th anniversary of the album happened during the height of the Covid pandemic. The band didn’t get to do a tour for it because nothing was open in 2020. It’s one of their best albums that feels like it gets overlooked.

Anthrax played “Antisocial” next and the crowd got really into that one too. Jonathan Donais on lead guitar was on top of the stage just belting out this incredible solo on the song. He was awesome the whole night. Ian talked to the crowd afterwards and said the band has literally been celebrating their 40th anniversary since July 2021 and he’s hungover and tired. Before going into “I Am the Law,” Ian said they wrote the song in 1986 about a guy they read about who was the judge and jury but the most badass thing was that he was the executioner. Red and blue lights flashed all over the stage during the song, which went dark with no regular lights. It was super cool. “I Am the Law” was one of the best songs they did live this night. Their next song was “In the End” from the Worship Music. It’s a slower song. The guitars sounded tight and Joey’s vocals sounded great. Belladonna was really strong the whole set, especially for being in his early 60s. Afterwards Ian said the first time they were with Exodus in Chicago was in 1987 at the Aragon Ballroom with Celtic Frost. Most of the people at this show weren’t even born yet or old enough to even be there. That must have been a sick gig though. They did “Only,” which is from the first Bush album Sound of White Noise (1993). It’s the only song they did of that era. Belladonna did a pretty good job with it. It’s kind of like when Bush sang the Belladonna-era songs, they sort of sounded better with Joey. It’s not really a song that fits Belladonna’s singing style or delivery but he did a good job with it.

They went into “Got the Time” next and Frank Bello’s bass playing on the intro sounded so sick. Bello is still a very energetic bass player. He was all over the stage and kept his energy up the whole night. His bass playing sounded fantastic. “Got the Time” is still a killer live song to this day. Before the next song Ian said that Benante was at home about 50 miles away but Derek Roddy was filling in for him. Ian filmed a video of the crowd on his phone to send to Benante and said we all got it on the first take. Roddy was really great behind the kit all night. I don’t know how much preparation time he had to learn all these songs but he killed it. The band played “Bring the Noise” next and then went right into their last song “Indians.” The “war dance” part of the song had a big pit open up in the center of the floor. There were also a lot of crowd surfers during “Indians.” The song finished pretty epically with smoke shooting from the stage, the band playing a little extra part at the end and Joey belting out the vocals. They had some cool smoke effects all over the stage at different points in the night too. Anthrax ended their set at 10:48 with 13 songs. Afterwards they threw a ton of guitar picks into the crowd and everyone around me went feral trying to catch them or find them on the floor. When the band were done, “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Rainbow played over the speakers as everyone dispersed.

After the show ended I bought an Anthrax anniversary shirt for $40. The artwork on these special shirts were all really sick. The merch line was pretty packed so I didn’t get out until around 11:15. When I get out the building it had started snowing. Someone drew a big dick in the snow on the ground outside the entrance, which I thought was funny. I definitely want to come to Radius again to see more shows. I hope they book more metal bands here. The sound quality is great in the building and the atmosphere with the big crowd adds a lot to the shows.

It was a lot of fun seeing Anthrax again. Even after 40 years they still go hard and sound fantastic live. The energy they brought on stage continues to crush it all these years later.

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One Comment

  1. […] who co-founded the band in 1984. I’m not sure if he’s even on this current tour. I just recently saw him live with Exodus so maybe he’s taking a break because of that tour. Atlus is still a member of Heathen. The […]

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