After missing the last four Lamb of God shows that I had tickets for, when their latest tour was announced the closest date was as a support act for Pantera just outside of Atlanta and you can believe I got tickets the minute they went on presale! Covid was the reason for me missing two of the Lamb of God shows. West Palm Beach, FL and Las Vegas, NV, were the shows I had tickets for, but the leg of that tour got rerouted to different cities at later dates and nothing that coincided with my schedule. Then I tried for a Nashville show and bought tickets, but I got offered a gig as a photographer on a five night music cruise where I would be at sea the day of the Nashville show. That was a no-brainer choice! The fourth show, I was already locked in to cover what I termed a tour of BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS (Testament, Exodus and Death Angel), when finally a local Lamb of God show was announced but darn it, that show was the same day as Testament.
While I expect the majority of the crowd in Alpharetta will be there to see the headliner, Pantera, it is Lamb of God that I am looking forward to the most and Pantera just happens to be about the most kick ass bonus this CMO (Chief Metal Officer) could possibly imagine. Having just seen the current iteration of Pantera a few weeks ago in New Jersey opening for Metallica, I can confidently go into this concert knowing we are going to get our faces melted off from the molten metal before us.
The day of the show finally arrives and I head to the airport in Tampa ready to meet up with one of my high school buddies Steve, who lives in Atlanta and I have not seen since the last time I was up his way covering the final Slayer World Tour in 2018. This has been quite the whirlwind five weeks having four concerts in three different cities that each required a flight to get to. In all of my concert going days I can find only one instance where that occurred but it was longer than five weeks in between those shows. The flight goes smooth and lands on time and it is early afternoon when Uber drops me off at Steve’s house.
We chill for an hour catching up and laughing over old time stories we shared and catch up on what is going on with each other and among our common friends. This is the first time either of us have been to this venue so we head out with plenty of time to grab a bite and then see if we can find our way into the media parking lot that I was given a pass for and was advised space would be limited. Steve found a place just a few minutes away from the venue and we had some great grub and chatted with other concert going patrons, as the expected crowd is pretty easy to spot. Fortunately, we were able to park in that lot and it was a godsend for my ageing feet in that I could not have my camera(s) in the venue when I was not behind the lens so having that lot close by enabled me to stow my cameras when necessary and still get back in and enjoy the sets for Lamb of God and Pantera and not miss too much of the show.
Opening the show was the Australian grindcore band King Parrot. I had not heard of this band going into the show, but apparently they have a pretty faithful following from what I witnessed in the crowd and the fact that Pantera lead singer, Phil Anselmo, sported one of their shirts when Pantera’s set occurred. For this band we got to photo from the photo pit and the band’s music was just an absolute fury. As what always happens my three songs up front went by in the blink of an eye and before I knew it we were being ushered back out to the side security gate. Due to the short set the band played I opted not to make the walk to the car and back just to do it again a few minutes later so I took in the rest of their set with just ears on. It was entertaining to listen to and from the crowd’s reception during and reaction after the set ended the crowd was sure pumped up and ready.
Lamb of God is one of my favorite bands. I love the ferocity of, the anger and aggression within, and the absolute precision of the band’s tightness. This was my tenth time seeing Lamb of God and while it was only a ten song opening set, it was by far the best sound quality I have ever witnessed in any of the previous nine times I had seen them. Sadly, our photo area was moved from the photo pit to behind the sound board which is not optimal, but at that point it is a first world problem because we are advised ahead of time that it is always a possibility. Opening the set is my favorite Lamb of God song, ‘Memento Mori’, so the awesome factor for me is already off the charts. But I have to remember the golden rule that it is not possible to headbang and take decent photos at the same time. That leads into my second favorite song of theirs, ‘Walk with Me in Hell’ and I already know the expense factor of this trip was already solidly so worth it. Our Live Nation host for the evening, not being familiar with the band’s songs, tried to usher us out while ‘Resurrection Man’ was just about to build back up to its frenzied conclusion and I spoke up and said it is still the third song! We have more time. He said since I was wearing a Lamb of God shirt (a CMO has to represent), he figured I would know so we thankfully got those last few moments to photo.
I dash to Steve’s car and I have no clue how to unlock it with his valet key, since being a Tesla he operates it all from his phone I take it. I finally figure out how to get in, stow my cameras, ask Steve to lock the car and get back inside just as ‘Now You’ve Got Something to Die For’ starts. I take this opportunity to seek out the merchandise booth I spotted earlier with an almost direct sight line to the stage. My purchase made, I find where our seats are and meet up with Steve. Steve had never heard a Lamb of God song before I played him one on the drive up here and while at that point earlier he said it was not his taste, he mentioned to me that he really enjoyed the band’s first two songs and I said that one of those was the one I played for him on the drive!
Their ten song set concluded, (of which I was familiar with nine of them so I have some Lamb of God homework to do) and back to Steve’s car I head to get ready for Pantera. While I am not here to take sides on the debate whether or not this is Pantera, I was here for some kick ass rock and metal and that is exactly what we fans were treated to this evening. I will say that it is very tasteful the way this iteration of the band portrays its history in their set. That it is about the music, and the fans, and the legacy both created together. Lead singer Phil Anselmo was completely engaging with fans for the entire set which Steve said he completely did not expect and I mentioned it was definitely the same from what I saw in New Jersey a few weeks back. This is for the fans and drummer Charlie Benante and axe man extraordinaire Zakk Wylde do not try and put the focus on either of themselves during the set.
Once again, we were behind the soundboard for our three songs. Surprisingly, from the wording in the approval email about how to expect a crowded pit, which I expected, there were only five other photographers besides myself. A black curtain ablaze with red lettering reading PANTERA covers the stage and as soon as the lights go out the band’s name is replaced by swirling cannabis leaves. Not that that was the cue, but let us just say that now it smells like a metal concert! The ferocity of ‘A New Level’ begins the set and the crowd is nearly as loud as the band at first. This was always the starting off song in my gym workouts of days past, it is one that really gets the blood pumping and I had to remember to wait to headbang. That segues into ‘Mouth for War’ which is actually the preceding song on the ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ release and the order I usually listened to them. Our third song was ‘Strength Beyond Strength’ and once again before I know it, it is time to make the trek back to Steve’s car. This time I have to come around and go in the main entrance to use my purchased ticket and I make it back with Steve by the end of the fourth song ‘Becoming’ and just in time for one of my all-time Pantera favorites, ‘ I’m Broken’. Most of my other favorite songs of theirs were played but this is the second time I have seen this iteration and like my friend Ben said when he saw them in Montreal recently, why are they only touching on the ‘Cowboys from Hell’ album, playing only the title track and part of ‘Domination’? My favorite Pantera track (‘No Good (Attack the Radical)’) is a deep enough cut that I doubt it will ever see future set list, I can always hope.
As ‘Cemetery Gates’ played in the background a video tribute to Dimebag and Vinnie played on the screens behind and to the sides of the band. This led to Charlie coming out to sit at a smaller drum kit in front of his main kit to play the Black Sabbath song ‘Planet Caravan’ which then lead into the iconic opening riff of ‘Walk’ and several members of King Parrot, Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe and Brent Hinds of Mastodon came out to sing the chorus along with the at least ten thousand in attendance all together as one: RE! SPECT! WALK ON HOME BOY! Wow what a freaking experience. Next up was that absolute metal crunch that I love so much with ‘Domination’ and ‘Hollow’. The song that introduced me to the band, ‘Cowboys From Hell’ closed out the main part of the set and for a two song encore we were treated to ‘Slaughtered’ and ‘Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit’.
I find it interesting and thought about it the day after the show in that Lamb of God opened their set with a song about embracing the possibilities and opportunities of the day ahead as the inevitability of death is always out there to Pantera closing the show by conveying a message about the insignificance of dwelling on the past and the importance of focusing on the present and future. And people say heavy metal is just noise. Even if no one else picked up on that or even if it was intended, it was thought provoking enough for me to take a moment as I write this to be thankful for the blessings in my life that afforded me the opportunity to travel and see this show.
What a f*cking amazing concert it was and so worth the trip. I mentioned to Steve how there were going to be some seriously sore necks in and around the Atlanta area the next day and I attest as I write that that I can feel it in my neck still! It was a fantastic show, and whoever was doing the sound needs a raise because I had never in my life heard metal that loud, while that clear and crisp. Steve and I both agreed that the light show was spectacular and I did spot a few youngsters in the crowd there with their parents or siblings. I picture them wearing their new concert shirt and being the coolest kids in school the next day that was for sure.
What did you do last night after class Billy? I Walked in Hell with Lamb of God and got my face melted off by Panmotherf*ckintera Ms. Jones! It was totally kick ass!
To say that I had a great time is total understatement. It literally was twenty six and half hours from the time I arrived at Tampa airport until I exited the airport parking garage. I caught up with a decades long friend, I Walked in Hell with Lamb of God, and got my face melted off by Panmotherf*ckintera! It was totally kick ass! And i DID wear my new shirt to work the next day!
I highly encourage anyone on the fence about seeing either of these bands live to do so.
As a concluding note, and to delve deeper into my love of Lamb of God’s ‘Walk With Me in Hell’. As musically and lyrically brilliant as I thought the song was when I was first exposed to it, it was not until I researched the meaning behind the song that gave it a whole new meaning for me. It literally floored me that a song so angry sounding was written out of the deepest love and sorrow a man and a woman could possibly ever share. The loss of a newborn infant.
“Pray for blood
Pray for the cleansing, pray for the flood
Pray for the end of this nightmare
This lie of a life can as quickly as it came dissolve
We seek only reprieve
And welcome the darkness
The myth of a meaning so lost and forgotten…
…Take hold of my hand
For you are no longer alone
Walk with me in Hell”
It is a tragically powerful story and more information can be found in the links below. More proof that heavy metal is not just noise:
For photos of the show :