Pantera at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI

Heavy metal legends Pantera captivate a packed venue with a set full of hits with support from Lamb of God and Child Bite.

The evening gets off to an entertaining opening by hardcore punk rockers Child Bite from Detroit. Lead singer Shawn Knight and guitarist Jeremy Waun are highly active with great stage presence and have the fans’ attention from the start. Walking out to the stage, Jeremy acts like he is drunk, stumbling to his side of the stage. Jeremy whips his hair about and sticks out his tongue often. Shawn gives the fans and photographers some interesting stares, while also enjoying a Pabst Blue Ribbon at one point. He also throws in jumps and steps out onto a speaker in the pit to get closer to the crowd. Not to be left out of the fun, bassist Sean Clancy lets his hair fly as he lays down the groove on the bass, while drummer Jeff Porter pounds the skins. Their set may be short but songs like “Vexed Life,” “Disposable Hysteria,” “Smog & Viscera,” and “Blow Off the Omens” have the fans moving and cheering. Not sure many of the fans tonight had even heard of them, let alone seen them, but they sure enjoyed it judging by the applause.

Lamb of God has been around for 30 years and is still going strong with their thrash and groove metal. For being one of the support acts tonight, they have the fans fired up as crowd surfing and a mosh pit opens early. The fans are on their feet, fists and horns in the air, and many also singing along to the songs. Lamb of God are not for the faint of heart, but you must admit they are masters of their craft. Guitarists Mark Morton and Wilie Adler both can shred, while John Campbell on bass and Art Cruz on the drums provide the low-end and aggressive beats that drive the songs. Singer Randy Blythe stalks the stage like a man on a mission, throwing in an occasional jump, but not as often nor from the drum riser tonight. His vocals may be harsh, but they are lucid enough to understand unlike many in these heavier genres of metal. They have built up a solid following and continue to add new fans through what seems like continual touring, whether as a headliner, playing festivals, or supporting major acts like Pantera. 

They only have about an hour to play but manage to get in 11 songs spanning six of their eight albums from As the Palaces Burn to the 2022 album Omens. They kick off with “Momento Mori” and then “Walk With Me in Hell” which is aglow in red lights. “Hourglass” takes it up a notch before they really get things blazing with one of their biggest hits, “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For.” This song has Willie and Mark tearing it up and Art crushing the drums. Some other highlights include “Ruin” where Randy exclaims, “Let’s get rowdy!” as well as the closer “Redneck” which Randy dedicates to Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul. It always gets the fans singing along and headbanging. They never disappoint and have the fans ready for more metal from the headliner to come.

The crowd has been anxiously waiting for Pantera to hit the stage when Zakk Wylde appears in the photo pit looking like Ultimate Warrior and with a similar action figure. He greets fans up front for a minute or so and then retreats behind the curtain. A few minutes later, the lights dim before they drop the curtain and jump right into “A New Level” which has the fans going wild. They follow that up with “Mouth for War” and “Strength Beyond Strength.” Once again, a large mosh pit has opened on the floor, along with more crowd surfing to keep security busy up front.

They have been reunited and back touring since mid-2023 and just recently picked back up for another leg of the tour. In between, they also supported Metallica on several dates of their tour. To say the fans are excited is an understatement. The venue is packed tonight with rabid fans, which is impressive since it’s a weeknight. The lineup may be missing the late Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, but the music they created lives on with original members Phil Anselmo (vocals) and Rex Brown (bass), along with legendary metal musicians Charlie Benante (drums) and Zakk Wylde (guitar). They are certainly up to the task of filling in for the Abbott Brothers as Charlie pummels the drums and Zakk shreds, including letting out the guitar squeals. Zakk is even playing a guitar with lightning imagery like Dimebag.

Pantera’s set tonight includes songs from the four albums Cowboys From Hell, Vulgar Display of Power, Far Beyond Driven, and The Great Southern Trendkill. Phil walks the stage from side to side, often engaging with fans. At one point he says, “If struggling with the lyrics, find the nearest old motherf***er.” That gets some laughs and cheers from the crowd. After “Becoming,” they play “I’m Broken” which gets some smoke and pyro going on the stage. They really get the fans amped up with fan favorites like “5 Minutes Alone,” “This Love,” and “Walk.” These all have the fans headbanging and singing out loud. They even break out “Floods” which has images of Vinnie and Dimebag Darrell displayed throughout the song. They wind it down with “Domination/Hollow” and “Cowboys From Hell.” The latter gets a huge response as Zakk plays that familiar opening riff before the rest of the band kicks in. They finish up this killer show with the thrashing “F**king Hostile” which leaves the fans wanting more. Hopefully, they will continue doing these reunion tours. 

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About Gary Pahlow 62 Articles
Gary is located in Rochester Hills, MI and has been officially photographing and writing concert reviews since early 2016. His main music interests are metal and hard rock, but he is also a fan of most genres including alternative, indie, jazz, and even some pop and country. When not covering or attending concerts, you can find him traveling with his wife or watching the Detroit Red Wings.