Written by Alex Stojanovic
w/ Lamb Of God and Child Bite
@ Budweiser Stage
Toronto, ON, Canada
August 12, 2023
It has been a topic of discussion for well over a decade, and the unimaginable came to fruition just last year, when Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown announced that they would be teaming up together for a bunch of Pantera tribute shows. The announcement caused quite a division between the fans, with one half being really stoked on it, and the other half causing an uproar and calling the move and insult to the legacy and the Abbott brothers. At first, when it was announced, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. However, as more details started rolling out, I started to get behind it more and more.
At the same time, there's a whole generation of fans who never got to hear those songs played live, and I'm part of that generation, so getting to hear those songs with a version of Pantera that's the closest thing to the "real" one is better than hearing those songs by any cover band. For me, what makes this the perfect makeshift Pantera is that Zakk Wylde and Charlie Benante were incredibly close with the brothers and the entire camp, so you couldn't have two guys more fitting to fill the shoes left behind by the brothers. At the end of the day, this whole thing was meant to be a tribute to the legacy, which is what it was labelled as from the start, as opposed to a full-blown reunion, and that word a lot of crybabies like to use: "cash grab". You don't have to go if you don't want to, but stop trying to make yourself look like the righteous one by boycotting it, because saying it that way just makes you look like a complete idiot. Anyway, moving on.
As videos started making their way online from the first bunch of shows in South America late last year, there was so much positive feedback on how the band sounded, that a full blown world tour was inevitable, and sure enough, here we are. Demand for this tour was off the scale, and the band has already toured Europe, Japan and North America, with more touring to come in the future. The band's North American tour included a bunch of headline dates, as well as stadium shows supporting Metallica on the M72 World Tour. The mammoth tour made a stop in Toronto at the Budweiser Stage on Saturday, August 12th, following the day they played with Metallica in Montreal. To make this tour even more heavier than it is, Lamb Of God served as special guests for the entire tour, along with a few smaller bands on Phil Anselmo's label: Housecore Records, joining the tour on select dates.
Toronto metalheads packed the CNE and Ontario Place grounds to witness this monster tour, ready to celebrate metal, Pantera and the legacy of the brothers with Blacktooth Grins. As the evening began with openers Child Bite, a new band from Detroit on Phil's Housecore Records, the crowd was rather sparse as the venue filled slowly. Their sound was more in the vein of System Of A Down meets southern metal, which seemed like a pretty cool mix, because I heard a bit of Serj Tankian influence in the vocals. I was under the assumption that this was the band's first time in Toronto, but I was quickly proven wrong when the band joked about the Budweiser Stage being "slightly" bigger than Sneaky Dee's.
Up next, the main support of the tour: Lamb Of God. By the time they came on stage, the venue was filled to capacity. There are only a handful of bands that are more than worthy of being in a support slot on an arena/amphitheatre tour, and bringing the set of a headliner. That being said, Lamb Of God is one of those bands, because they brought the stage set of a headliner with risers and pyro, along with concussion blasts and fireworks. Starting off with "Memento Mori", they tore their way through a rather impressive setlist that touched on songs both new and old, with the newest songs being "Omens" and "Ditch", and the oldest song being "Ruin". They also touched on several of the setlist staples like "Walk With Me In Hell", "Now You've Got Something To Die For", "Laid To Rest" and the ultimate closer: "Redneck", which they dedicated to the Abbott brothers. Randy Blythe even took the time to acknowledge the legendary Toronto Slayer Swimmer story, and the swimmer: Chris LaRocque, just happened to be at the show. I'm sure he was honoured. This also marked Willie Adler's first time in Canada since 2018 (no need to get into the reason why).
Finally, it was time for the moment that old-schoolers have been waiting for for 20+ years, and newcomers have waited their whole lives for: Pantera. The show started off with the video montage of classic clips taken during the band's heyday in the 90s both on and off tour while "Regular People (Conceit)" played in the background. As the curtain dropped, unbridled fury followed as the band kicked things off with a double-dose of Vulgar Display Of Power with "A New Level", followed by "Mouth For War". The setlist was jam-packed with iconic tunes and a handful of deep cuts, making for pretty much a perfect setlist. Zakk Wylde's tone was monstrous and devastating. Even if it was down-tuned, it was a great representation of what Dimebag's tone would've sounded like today. while Charlie Benante's drums were loud and thunderous, perfectly emulating the power that Vinnie's drum kit had, and Rex's bass tone was mean and pounding.
As the show went on, we were treated to many more classics like "Strength Beyond Strength", "Becoming", "I'm Broken", "This Love", "Planet Caravan" and "Cowboys From Hell", as well as deep cuts like "Suicide Note Pt. 2". We were also treated to not one, but two encores. The first encore featured deep cuts like "Revolution Is My Name", and the first half of "Slaughtered", while the final song of the night was "Yesterday Don't Mean Shit". Phil even took a moment to survey the crowd by asking who saw Pantera in the 90s, and where all the newcomers were, and to almost no one's surprise, it was like 75/35 for the newcomers. A standout moment was when the band restarted "5 Minutes Alone" because Phil botched the lyrics in the first verse.
To say that this was a night to remember would be an understatement as it was much more than that. Both the old and new generations of fans had the opportunity to hear those songs live both for the first time in many years and ever. All the detractors wrongfully labelling this a cash grab better go get a lesson on the difference between a celebration and a cash grab.