CLEVELAND -- Heavy metal lives. At least it did for one unforgettable
night in the Flats of Cleveland.
None of the some odd 4,000 fans who turned out for this sold-out show could
have expected it. The concert was different than other Pantera shows, different
from any show most had seen more than likely, different in all the right ways.
On this Tuesday night the crowd would witness not only one of the most
raucous bands alive offering living proof that the power of metal is still very
much alive, but along with it a surprise Ozzfest reunion, a mock wedding and
two unforgettable encores by the masters of metal, Pantera.
As the band launched into their two-hour set at the Nautica Stage in the Flats,
the venue quickly transformed into a giant moshpit of bodies twisting, jerking
and head-banging everywhere. The energy was surging from the start, but
exploded in near hysteria when lead screecher Phil Anselmo screamed, "Is
heavy metal dead? Take a look around you. Heavy metal isn't dead!"
The tone was set. The metal assault had begun.
A rollicking version of "I'm Broken" from Pantera's 1994 release, Far Beyond
Driven further encouraged the rock 'n' roll insanity to new heights as fans
flung their bodies around in knee-jerk reactions to the bone-crushing power of
"This Love," off the 1992 Vulgar Display Of Power was played with a little
help from, as Anselmo described it, "some old friends."
Metal comrades Drain STH and Life Of Agony -- though not on the bill -- made a
special appearance on stage for the chorus, loading the night's lineup with
even more dangerous artillery. "This is like a reunion of the best tour all year,
the Ozzfest tour," shouted Anselmo. "And I don't think (Ozzy Osborne) can hear
us right now, but let's see if we can make him hear us." Soon, the audience
began its almost ritual chant, "Ozzy, Ozzy" to a Dimebag Darrell version of the
Black Sabbath classic "Iron Man."
Handing his guitar to Anselmo, Dimebag approached the microphone to sing.
To help him along, the tattooed and obviously well-oiled Anselmo hammered
out the opening riff of Sabbath's "Paranoid" while Dimebag ran amuck onstage
shouting, "I Love You All!" in true Ozzy fashion. Anselmo's guitar continued the
Black Sabbath tribute while Dimebag shrieked into the microphone. Fans
roared in approval.
But they hadn't seen anything yet. The strangest was yet to come.
Perhaps the last thing you would expect to see at a Pantera show is a wedding,
but that's exactly what the crowd got. Fans and friends of the band Dave
Guidish, better known as Shuu, and his girlfriend, Erin Simon, were brought
onstage to be married by none other than the Right Rev. Phil.
Reading his lines from a sheet of paper as "The Wedding March" was played in
the background, the reverend proceeded to "marry these crazed, drunk S.O.B.'s
in holy, or unholy matrimony."
With a stage full of metal heads, spilled beer and clouds of smoke, the reverend
closed the touching ceremony before launching right back into the metal.
"Domination" heated up the already smoking crowd as the audience pounded
the floor like they were stamping out fires. By the time they got to the title track
from their 1990 release, Cowboys From Hell, it was clear that Anselmo
and the boys had proved beyond any reasonable doubt that metal had not met
Rather it was still making its rounds of America with Pantera leading the way.
The metal makers wrapped up their set with two deadly and destructive
encores. The first was "Walk" from the 1992 Vulgar Display Of Power,
and the second, "A New Level," from the same album. If fans were not
convinced by this point of the band's powerful arsenal, they would never be.
In the end, Pantera had kicked Cleveland's ass. Holding nothing back, they
proved that despite reports to the contrary, metal is still alive and living, for at
least the night, in Cleveland, U.S.A.
As Anselmo walked offstage, he reminded the audience, "Spread the word!"
But he didn't have to say anything. [Mon., Sept. 22,
1997, 9 a.m. PST]