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Astoria, London 4 July 2003

Upon arriving at the Astoria, I was firstly rather surprised to have been able to walk straight in rather than having to queue for ages outside. The reason was soon apparent when I got inside the place was half-empty and the upstairs section was completely closed. On Stage, Manchester 4-piece Kill II This were trying to animate a rather stubborn London audience. Only guitarist/leader Mark Mynett remained from the same line-up which I saw a few years back at the same venue and though the band were given plenty of time, only one rather lengthy tune stood out amongst the dross. The band were heavy and they featured an excellent rhythm section but the hardcore-style screamer became rather wearing. Despite the efforts of the lanky Mr Mynett, they failed to engage the audience and it was a blessed relief when their set came to a close.

A good number of late arrivals entered the hall and the sense of anticipation amongst the crowd certainly heightened during the break. Fortunately, the venue management then saw fit to open the upstairs section and sensing that the crowd was in a lively mood, I chose the right time to make my move and to secure a good vantage point from which to watch further proceedings. Cheers roared out as the Blues Brothers intro tape kicked in and a short time later the members of the band arrived on stage one by one and launched into What Doesn't Die from the latest album We Have Come For You All. It made for an excellent set-opener and within seconds the ground floor section of the venue was a seething mass of sweaty bodies.

There was no letting up in pace as they continued with Black Dahlia, then Got The Time at which point the crowd went absolutely mental. Despite this being the 3rd time that the band had played in the UK during the last 12 months, they were certainly full of energy and they played with great enthusiasm, which was certainly matched by the energy displayed by the furious pit in front of the stage. Then after a slightly punkier tune, the band allowed the crowd a breather in the shape of the slower paced, Safe Home. This also gave frontman John Bush an opportunity to show what a fine singer he is before it was back to the fast and furious material once more.

After a quick survey of the audience, when Bush asked the audience how many of them had seen the band 10 or more times, 5 or more times etc, he introduced Antisocial. Once again this got the crowd bouncing and singing along with the band, which continued throughout Madhouse.

After another slower tune, it was time to go right back in time to 1987 for(Cowboys and) Indians which only had the effect of making the pit erupt into activity once more. The Astorias security team certainly earnt their money as they were kept on their toes fending off a constant stream of crowd-surfers. One enterprising gent, wearing a headdress was about to return to the crowd when he was seized by the shoulder by John Bush who persuaded the security guys to allow him up onstage. He was clearly delighted at the honour and proceeded to dance around the stage and to sing along to the chorus with bassist Frank Bello, returning to join his mates in the crowd at the end of the tune.

Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.) from Among the living, then Ole and a further number closed out what appeared to be a rather short set, so it was no great surprise when the band quickly returned and launched into a series of encore beginning with Be All, End All. Then it was time to pay homage to their heroes with an abridged cover of Iron Maidens Number of the Beast and then to go Metal Thrashing Mad. By this stage the heat and the moshing had taken its toll on the crowd and though Bush made reference to the band appearing at Donnington, he couldnt inspire the audience to mosh with the same energy to the final two numbers of Bring The Noise and I am the Law.

Whilst never bearing particular favourites of mine, I certainly enjoyed the gig and it was impossible to ignore the energy and enthusiasm of the band and the delight of their hard-core followers throughout the performance. They certainly appear to be a rejuvenated force.

For an alternative view Anthrax review at Live 4 Metal

Text © 2003 Jason Ritchie

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