If there’s one thing the last twelve months or so have taught people it’s how to adapt, and fans of live music have been no exception. With no shows to attend, the number of people paying to watch their favourite bands – or just any band – performing special quarantine sets has been steadily on the rise.
Of course, it’s not the same experience as an actual show. No matter how big your TV or computer monitor might be, you’re still basically watching things happen on a screen. There’s no physical human interaction, no chance of any random encounters, or those moments when you just lose control and go apeshit. On the plus side, however, there is no queuing for ages in the cold, no extortionate drinks prices and – if you happen to be watching a replay – there’s no fighting your way through a crowd of people to get to the toilets, usually missing one of your favourite songs in the process.
A somewhat confusing start to proceedings, the Philip H Anselmo and the Illegals stream begins with footage of pigs and chickens before switching to a compilation of comedy interviews and tour videos including the band’s visit to the Black Sabbath exhibition in Birmingham. After this, from a small enclosed space in Melbourne, Aussie grindcore/thrash mob King Parrot spend about half an hour sweating and screaming through a selection of their finest ballads. Featuring songs like ‘Disgrace Yourself’, ‘Need No Savior’, ‘Psychotherapy and Valium’, ‘Shit on the Liver’, and ‘Bozo’, the band truly master the art of subtlety and restraint with ‘Piss Wreck’ and ‘The Stench of Hardcore Pub Trash’.
Not altogether unexpectedly for an internet show, the band suffered from early technical complications when the sound goes missing from the first half of opener ‘Suicide Note – Pt. 1’, leading them to have to perform it with guest musician Calvin Dover (En Minor) again later in the show. Under full stage lighting in front of a crowd of fifty actual human beings, the barefooted Anselmo dedicates the event, made up entirely of Pantera material, to the memory of Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul before tearing into ‘A New Level’. For about thirty seconds anyway. Stopping to deal with a couple of sound problems, Anselmo gives the nod and the band restart the song, the difference both instant and significant.
The guitars seem a little quiet during ‘Mouth For War’ but are absolutely on point for a particularly savage version of ‘Becoming’. ‘We’ll Grind That Axe For a Long Time’ is a surprising inclusion, and after a little speech about things slowly getting back to normal, the band breaks out ‘Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit’ and a suitably violent ‘Fucking Hostile’. Apparently Phil and Dime’s favourite cut from The Great Southern Trendkill (EastWest/Elecktra), ‘War Nerve’ hits the spot before Calvin Dover joins the band again once again for ‘This Love’. A devastating version of ‘Strength Beyond Strength’ (complete with parts of ‘Goddamn Electric’ and ‘Suicide Note Pt. 2’) closes the main part of the show, photo tributes to Dimebag and Vinnie projected from the stage while the band takes a well-earned breather.
Comprising the repeat performance of ‘Suicide Note Pt.1’, a punishing ‘Hellbound’, a nice bit of child-friendly audience participation on crowd favourite ‘Walk’, and finale ‘(Reprise) Sandblasted Skin’, the encore also includes excerpts from ‘Hollow’ and ‘Domination’, the latter being the show’s only (semi)callback to 1990’s Cowboys From Hell (Atco).
Occasionally struggling with his voice, Anselmo’s vocal cords don’t easily respond to the higher notes or quieter moments these days, the frontman sounding his abrasive best when simply going for it during the more straightforward, faster material. As for The Illegals, the rhythm section of drummer Jose Manuel Gonzales and bassist Derek Engemann work together brilliantly (apart from one amusing moment when Gonzales mistimes a cue), while Mike DeLeon and Stephen Taylor handle Dimebag’s tricky fretwork with great respect, although intermittently reminding people that even the most accomplished of guitarists can have trouble emulating one of the best.