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(Above: Anthrax fights ’em ’till they can’t at the Midland Theater in Kansas City, Mo., on Jan. 26, 2012.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

When Anthrax took the stage for 2010’s Big Four tour with thrash-metal peers Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica, it was the only band without any new material.

Anthrax hadn’t released an album in eight years, which meant its Big Four shows were essentially hit parades. That was fine for the time being, said founding member and guitarist Scott Ian. But the band had bigger things in mind.“We played a greatest-hits set, which was great,” Ian said. “All the shows were great. It just added more fuel to what we were doing.”

What they were doing was preparing new material with lead singer Joey Belladonna for the first time in more than 20 years. Belladonna, the singer from what is considered the band’s classic period, was with the group from 1985 to 1992, when he was replaced by John Bush. Belladonna performed with Anthrax for a tour in 2005 but decided not to permanently rejoin the band.

The ball got rolling again when Ian and drummer Charlie Benante attended Metallica’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2009, and the idea of a Big Four tour was introduced.

“I knew if they were serious about these shows, it would be amazing to have Joey back,” Ian said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. In a way, the 18 months we spent together on tour before helped a lot this time around. We weren’t starting from scratch.”

So in early 2010, Belladonna rejoined the band. With both the band and its fans itching for a new release, the four instrumentalists and Belladonna set to work completing “Worship Music,” an album with a complicated gestation. It was released in September.

The album had originally been scheduled for release in 2009 with short-lived vocalist Dan Nelson. When Nelson and Anthrax parted ways, it was rumored that John Bush, Belladonna’s original replacement, would record new vocals. But Bush wasn’t comfortable proceeding with the band beyond a handful of concerts, and the tapes were handed to Belladonna.

“Joey had all the freedom in the world to change anything he wanted,” Ian said. “Joey worked with producer Rob Caggiano, and then they’d send us MP3s of what they were working on. There were hardly any notes or suggestions. It was an unbelievably smooth process.”

The band had never let the singer work independently done before, Ian said, but he thinks the album benefits from the approach.

“The music is always done first in our band,” Ian said. “In the past with Joey and John, the song would end and it was like the judge’s panel would sit there and nitpick. We now realized this was not a good way to work.”

Anthrax gave Kansas City a taste of its reconfigured lineup in October when it opened for Five Finger Death Punch at the Independence Events Center. Ian said fans can expect more of the same at tonight’s show at the Midland. Much more.

“Now that we’re headlining, that means a much longer set than what we delivered a few months ago,” Ian said.

Fans can expect to hear Belladonna deliver some of the best songs of the John Bush-era in concert, Ian said, but they shouldn’t be concerned about any more games of musical chairs with lead singers.

“Joey is the singer of Anthrax until there is no more Anthrax,” Ian said. “I think it’s been proven beyond doubt this is the band that is supposed to be Anthrax.”

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(Above: Megadeth perform “Hangar 18” in England earlier this year. The audio quality is pretty much what it sounded like inside the Beaumont Club as well.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Blazing fast guitar licks, double-kick bass-drum riffs and an armada of metal anthems: Dave Mustaine brought everything that made Megadeth famous to the Beaumont Club on Saturday night.

The majority of the quartet’s 90-minute set drew from its reign at the top of the thrash heap in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when it played before massive crowds alongside Slayer and Anthrax and was compared to Mustaine’s former bandmates, Metallica.

Although Mustaine had to rehearse the crowd’s part for “Head Crusher,” one of four songs performed off the band’s current album, “Endgame,” most of the time he was able to step back and let the mob rule the mic. The schizophrenic “Sweating Bullets” and outro to “Peace Sells” were especially lusty sing-alongs. The audience vocals were frequently clearer than Mustaine’s, which were buried in an abysmal mix that made every number sound and feel like brick to the head.

Snarling vocals aside, Megadeth’s other hallmark is lightning-fast, labyrinthine fretwork gymnastics. Although he’s yet to celebrate his second anniversary in the band, guitarist Chris Broderick was more than up to the task, ripping up the extended instrumental half of “Hangar 18,” tearing through the epic “In My Darkest Hour” and trading solos with Mustaine on “She-Wolf” and the warp-speed new song “1,320’.” Ever the gracious host, Mustaine frequently retreated to bang his rusty locks alongside the bank of Marshall amplifiers lined across the back of the stage while Broderick took center stage.

The rhythm section of Shawn Drover and James LoMenzo – Megadeth veterans with six and four years of service, respectively – guided the groove into “Trust” and held down the framework for the guitar pyrotechnics.
While many metal songs focus on war, Mustaine has never been afraid to get political. Megadeth’s previous album was called “United Abominations” and features a song called “Washington is Next!” The closing triptych revealed an interesting point of view.

“Symphony of Destruction” deals with political puppets propped up by a government bent on war. “Peace Sells” discusses disillusionment and hypocrisy of politicians who aim for peace but somehow end up perpetuating war. (The song’s refrain is “Peace sells/but who’s buying?”) “Holy Wars” started out as a referendum on Northern Ireland, but features several Middle Eastern guitar breaks and echoes jihad theory.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t war Mustaine wanted to talk about. Instead, he interrupted “Peace Sells” for an anti-Obama screed, blasting the president without using his name for selling the country to the Chinese and giving away civil rights. Mustaine’s solution was to “write my own (expletive) name in there” on the ballot come election day.

(It is curious that in the week following Obama’s announcement of an Afghani surge after running a campaign on ending the war, Mustaine would ignore these parallels for clichéd attacks.)

After peaking on the charts in the late ‘90s, Mustaine broke up the band in 2002. Two years later, he resurrected the name as the only continuing member, but has yet to regain drawing power as a live act. While the Beaumont was plenty crowded, tickets were still being sold at the door after the band had taken the stage.

If the stumble from stadiums to clubs frustrated Mustaine, it didn’t show. He took time before “44 Minutes” to express heartfelt thanks to everyone for letting them play, and long after the rest of the band had departed, Mustaine lingered onstage after “Holy Wars” to shake hands and congratulate fans.

Setlist: Dialectic Chaos, This Day We Fight, Wake Up Dead, Skin of My Teeth, Head Crusher, A Tout Le Monde, She-Wolf, Tornado of Souls, 1,320’, In My Darkest Hour, Sweating Bullets, Hangar 18, 44 Minutes, Trust, Symphony of Destruction, Peace Sells. Encore: Holy Wars.

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pat-green
By Joel Francis

The Kansas City Star

Pat Green may be a country singer from Texas, but his inspiration is a rock star from New Jersey.

“I’m trying to do what (Bruce) Springsteen did,” he said. “Jersey knew all about Springsteen before ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ came out and launched him.”

“Texas knows what I’m about. I can sell out as big of an arena as you want in Texas, but in Kansas City I’m playing a thousand-seater.”

Green will bring the music he describes as “if Springsteen and Willie Nelson had a kid” on Saturday to the Granada Theater in Lawrence. He’ll also be previewing his new album, “What I’m For,” which comes out Tuesday.

“When I get a new record out, I do like Springsteen and just make the shows longer. All the new stuff gets added to the old,” Green said. “You identify the bigger songs from that and throw them in the every-night pile.”

One new song he’s playing is “Country Star,” a country rewrite of Nickelback’s “Rock Star.” Green said he’s not sure if everyone will get the joke, and he’s fine with that.

“It’s a laughable notion to think of myself as a star,” he said. “Some of my guys know I’m kidding, that I’m not going to buy a shiny belt buckle and 10-gallon hat. But I like to write ambiguously, so that my songs can mean more than one thing to people. Others will laugh. Just picturing it is kind of funny.”

The flip side of that coin is “In It for the Money,” a soul-searching song about finding the right motivation.

“There is a quote by William Jennings I’m sure I’m going to butcher, but you have to do it for the right reasons. You have to care. This is not a dress rehearsal,” Green said. “Do you do it for love or do you do it for money?”

“What I’m For” also features a new arrangement of “Carry On,” a song Green has been carrying for more than a decade. The Police remake of their hit “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” inspired Green to take a different approach to his warhorse.

“That song is just part of my soul,” Green said. “Because I love it so much, I can move the furniture around without everyone getting upset with me. I never know how I’m going to play it in concert. Sometimes it’s just me and the guitar like a ballad. It’s been worn in every way you can wear it.”

Assisting Green for the first time is producer Dann Huff. The award-winning veteran has worked with artists as diverse as Bon Jovi, Megadeth and LeAnn Rimes.

“Keith Urban was mostly responsible for me hiring Dann Huff,” Green said. “I compared his work with Rascal Flatts and Faith Hill. Those albums sound completely different. They made me aware of Dan’s ability to wrap his hands around the individual artist and make the record toward them, rather than bending the artist to his vision.”

Pushing aside notions of trying to recapture the success of “Wave on Wave,” Green’s 2003 breakthrough hit, Green wrote an album that captured his life now as a father and family man.

“I’m not just going to sing anything to have a radio hit. I have to love it and believe it to sell it,” Green said. “I write about what I’m in tune with in this space, and that’s what Springsteen does, as well.”

Green, who happens to have his album coming out the same day as Springsteen’s “Working on a Dream,” has paid homage to the Boss by performing “Atlantic City” at his shows for years. For this tour he’s adding a new wrinkle.

“I think for this next tour I’m going to pull something off ‘The Rising’ for our encore,” Green said. “I have several songs in mind, but I don’t want to say what. If I go a different way, I won’t be caught lying.”

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