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Photos & Show Review: PANTERA Played Their First Show Of 2024

The setlist included "Floods" for the first time in 23 years.

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Ever since Pantera reformed and played their first show in December 2022 (yes, we were there as well), they have been touring non-stop, and last night was the inaugural date of their 2024 trek through North America, with Lamb Of God as openers.

Much has been written and said as to whether this classifies more as a tribute than to a reunion, and I won’t get to that debate again (everyone is entitled to an opinion about the subject). I, for one, am glad that new generations get to experience a glimpse of the greatness that one of the most revered and legendary bands in the history of metal brought to the scene in the early ‘90s – let’s just remember that amidst the grunge explosion 1994, Pantera scored a No. 1 position in the Billboard charts with their Far Beyond Driven album, and as you probably know, their music has never been radio-friendly.

The homage to the late Abbott brothers continues to be palpable in several ways, besides the footage that runs through the screens showing up home videos of the band’s tomfoolery moments and the white silhouettes of Dime and Vinnie shown over a black background right before the start of the show. Benante's bass drums displayed portraits of Dimebag and Vinnie raiding shot glasses, while Zakk Wylde's leather vest proudly bore the words "St. Dime" on both sides. And during the first spoken moment in the show, right after the burst of energy and madness that comes with their opening salvo of "Mouth For War", Anselmo declared: “First things first, every note that we hit is for Dimebag and Vince.”

Photos & Show Review: PANTERA Played Their First Show Of 2024

Tons of hands in the packed-by-the-thousands arena were raised when Anselmo – barefoot as usual, rocking shorts and a t-shirt with a completely indistinguishable band name in the front – asked “How many of you saw Pantera in the ’90s?”. However, his next question: “And how many of you, this is your first time?” was met with a sea of hands and cheers, just proving what I wrote above. Looking thrilled Anselmo continued: “Hey, that is a load of awesome parenting. Let’s give it up.”

How does this live incarnation of Pantera sound like? That will depend on what kind of expectations you have, and whether you were lucky enough to witness their original line-up in a live setting some decades ago, or not. Anselmo exhibited a robust vocal performance; completely consistent and equally strong with what I’ve seen – at least 4 times – in the last year and a half while chronicling their shows. His prolonged screams and growls, particularly noteworthy in the renditions of “5 Minutes Alone” and “I’m Broken,” were standout moments in an otherwise powerful delivery, while his burly on-stage presence has become somewhat less frightening (if we compare it with his bludgeoning and infamously unhinged live persona during the band peak years), adopting a more appreciative demeanor with frequent approving head nods, finger points, and gestures to the heart and sky.

Photos & Show Review: PANTERA Played Their First Show Of 2024

Known for his drumming in Anthrax, where Dimebag guest-starred on four songs (Dime was affectionately acknowledged as the band's unofficial sixth member), Benante’s verisimilar and convincing playing integrated effortlessly into the Pantera’s hulking and exhilarating live mix, and despite his face being mostly covered by the elevated placing of the cymbals, he stood up during certain moments, grinning from ear to ear.

Wylde occasionally added his own flair instead of strictly replicating Dimebag's licks, and of course, the riffs he’s been tasked to play belong to the pantheon of guitar history, combining the primal intensity with the intricate technical flourishes that made Dime the unique legend he was (and will always be). After all these years, those guitar lines coming from Zakk’s hands retained their sonic brilliance; and I’m certain that listening to the high-pitched squeals in "Becoming" and "Suicide Note Pt. II," got hundreds of the metal-head hearts in attendance to race a little faster.

Photos & Show Review: PANTERA Played Their First Show Of 2024

The majority of the setlist – which included only 13 songs – continues to draw from the 1992’s Vulgar Display Of Power, a pivotal point in Pantera's musical evolution, and Far Beyond Driven, the double punch of records that aligns with the zenith of their public recognition. However, given the fact they have been now touring back for a while plus them being the headliners, it would have been interesting to witness the inclusion of different cuts like "Drag the Waters," "War Nerve," "Psycho Holiday," "I'll Cast a Shadow," or "Goddamn Electric."

Despite the lack of changes in the song selection, the band did allocate some time to acknowledge their broader discography, momentarily veering from the hit sequence with a frenzied performance of "Suicide Note Pt. II" mid-show. A moment of respite from the barrage of energy arrived with the rendition of “Floods” – a new addition to the setlist, and the first time the band had played it live since they stopped touring in 2001 -, and also noteworthy was the "Throes Of Rejection" outro section at the end of "Becoming". The main set concluded with an unstoppable medley of tracks from Cowboys From Hell, featuring the anthemic and unmistakable guitar riffs of "Walk," a by now classic mash-up of "Domination/Hollow," and the utterly iconic album's title track, sung by thousands of voices at unison.

Photos & Show Review: PANTERA Played Their First Show Of 2024

Despite the onslaught of music, the audience – at this point covering almost every single inch of the arena – remained eager for more. In a bid to ensure their departure was utterly satisfying, the four men on stage returned for a relentless encore, unleashing a sped-up version of "Fucking Hostile" bated with pyro, with Anselmo telling the crowd "When we play this song we want to see every single motherf***er here singing along!".

Whether you consider it a reunion or a tribute, one thing is undeniable: Pantera’’s legacy, enduring impact on the metal genre, and the power of their music to captivate audiences remains palpable. Do yourself a favor and catch them live if they come to your neck of the woods.

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