Even before I read about their concerts online, saw live Pantera DVD’s, or heard this C.D., I knew Pantera must put on a great live show. Most loud bands are good live, so super loud and intense bands must be insane. Plus, there are some songs (like “Hostile” and “Walk”) that seem tailor made to be played live.
I never really liked or appreciated live albums very much. I could never stand the crowd noise and I thought live albums paled in comparison to the band’s studio albums. Pantera’s “Official Live: 101 Proof” definitely changed my mind about these kinds of C.D.’s. This C.D. is 78 minutes long, so (obviously) Pantera played every song in its entirety, and, in some cases, (thanks to Phil’s chatting with the crowd) these songs are longer than the original. About every song is played live as well as it was played on the studio album (no song is butchered). Furthermore, all of the guitar solos and almost all of the original lyrics remain in tact. Finally, the crowd noise is always kept to a bearable minimum.
The energy and intensity levels increase greatly over the course of these 14 tracks, and the crowd noise helps to add to that energy. You don’t just hear these songs; you feel them. The listener really feels like they are there in the Kentucky crowd, listening to this concert. But the crowd didn’t come to the concert with this energy. Pantera put that energy in them. Their blood-pumping music (which consists of dominating riffs, shout-along choruses, fast drumming, and brutal screams) make mosh-ready pits and fans that probably never stopped jumping. And frontman Phil Anselmo only adds to it. Pantera aren’t one of those bands that just stand up there, play there songs, and wait for their set to be over. Phil eggs the crowd on, yelling things like: “Come on,” “Let me see your hands,” “Answer me!,” “Let’s go,” “Everybody!,” “Don’t just stand there!,” “Let me hear you,” and “Let me hear some of that f***ing noise I told you about!”
1. “New Level” may (against all odds) actually sound better live. The crowd erupts as Pantera take the stage for the first time. The opening glass-shattering sound of this song is made by Dimebag’s squealing guitars. The guitars then turn to a lurch, while Phil yells really heavily. After Dime’s guitar solo near the middle, Phil mutters one or two spoken words (which are barely audible.) It’s up for debate if the live version of “New Level” is better than on the studio album, but the live version is definitely louder.
2. “Walk” is the next song. As soon as the world famous opening staccato riff begins, the crowd gets even louder. After a few riffs, Phil stops the song to talk to the audience. He says: “I’m gonna tell you something right the f*** now, we got the godd*mn cameras on you and we’re filming for the godd*mn home video, so I wanna see you go ape s*** right now.” I can only imagine how many mosh pits broke out after Phil said this. Phil then says to the drummer: “Vince, take it from the (first) verse.” The rest of the super-catchy song follows, and Phil, of course, invites everybody to shout the chorus (“RE!SPECT! WALK!”) Dimebag’s famous guitar solo is still there, and it’s as good as the studio version. This solo and this song proves that Dimebag didn’t have a studio double. He could riff and solo equally as well. Plus, I’ve always thought it was cool how he could lay down riffs, pause briefly to do a solo, then pick up where he left off with the riffs.
3. “Becoming” is begun with an address to the crowd. Phil says something about Pantera’s “Far Beyond Driven” album going number one, and everybody bought the album. He also mumbles something about “commercial s***.” The crowd sings this song’s chorus, as well, but they make no noise during Dimebag’s guitar parts. I’m guessing they were in shock and awe.
4. “Five Minutes Alone” has famous stop-start lurching guitars and staccato vocals, which sound as good here as they did the first time I heard them. The crowd really lets Dimebag hear it for his guitar solo near the end. Phil bellows two huge, high-pitched yells here, as well.
5. Phil then makes a rambling statement against “all these experts who are telling you heavy music is dead.” He then tells the crowd that if heavy music is dead, then “Turn around and look at each other.” He dedicates the next song to “Everybody that never gave up on the f***in’ heavy music, ever. Everybody who ignored all the weak a** trends.” This leads into the beginning of the song “Sandblasted Skin,” where Phil bellows flattening yells of “The trend is dead!” Phil’s voice is very dominating and crazy on the live version of this song.
6. “Suicide Note, Part 2″ has super heavy guitar riffs, throat straining vocals, and more fast, talented drumming, which make this song probably the heaviest on the album. Dime’s guitars make a “wah wah” sound near the end.
7. As soon as “Suicide Note” ends, Dimebag leads right into the next song (one which is very much like the one that came before it). This is one of my favorite songs from “The Great Southern Trendkill,” and the galloping guitars, with Phil repeating yells of “Hey!” is my favorite part of this song.
8. Phil takes a deep breath, then he and Dimebag launch right into “Strength Beyond Strength.” This is a very speedy song with some more almost death metal yells, and it ends with a winding, bending guitar solo. Phil must’ve been quite winded by the time this song was over.
9. “Domination” begins with Rex’s low, beeping bass, which ascends in volume. Phil asks the crowd if they hear the bass, then he demands they answer him. This song, from the “Cowboys from Hell” album, ends after the instrumental beginning, and leads right into the song “Hollow.” “Hollow” was originally a semi-ballad, but Pantera deleted the whole ballad part of it, and skipped right to the heavy bobbing beat/riffs and staccato vocals which ride the beat well. There’s a pause near the end, and Phil counts to three, then the band comes back and finishes the song.
10. “This Love” is the other semi-ballad from “Vulgar Display of Power.” But, unlike “Hollow,” Pantera play this song in its entirety. Phil tells the crowd “you all know this song, sing this motherf***er,” but, to his dismay, they don’t. This song’s choruses are even heavier and more emotional than on the original studio album. Phil summons his inner demons for three big ending yells.
11. “I’m Broken” is the last song before the encore. Phil tells the crowd he loves them, and encourages them to “get high, drop acid, get laid, and all that good s***.” Phil’s vocals are more high pitched than on the “Far Beyond Driven” album, and the song ends with Vinnie, Rex, and Dimebag banging on their instruments (making a “boom boom boom” sound, which echoes the end of the “Vulgar Display of Power” song “By Demons Be Driven.”).
12. It is no surprise that Pantera came back out to play three more songs, because no Pantera concert is complete without “Cowboys from Hell.” This classic maybe should have been the second to last song instead of third, but as long as they played it sometime during the concert, I’m not complaining.
13. “Cemetery Gates” was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance,” and rightfully so. The whole band perform this song flawlessly, and the soft-hard dynamic of this song is executed as effectively as the studio version. But Phil’s ending yells come across as screeches, and they’re not as high-pitched or Judas Priest-esque.
14. There’s one song left. Which Pantera song have they not played yet, and which song would make this concert complete? Phil yells “What do you wanna hear?!” He then waits for a response and tells everybody to take a deep breath. I’m guessing Phil used this time to stall, so he could rest his vocal chords. He then asks his band if they’re ready, and the beat of “F***ing Hostile” explodes like a rocket. Every instrument is flying by so fast, yet they manage to stop for the chorus, so they crowd can yell it. I expected the live version of this song to be even more brutal and out of control, but it’s not. It’s equally as loud and controlled.
“Where You Come From” is the first of two b-sides from the studio, and it sounds like it was recorded around the time of”Vulgar Display of Power.” It has a guitar intro, and Phil makes an appearance around the 25 second mark. The guitar riffs continuously jump from the left headphone to the right (so they’re only audible in one headphone at a time). This song builds to a midpoint then stops, and Phil’s a capella vocals say: “I could care less!” The real highlight of this song, though, is the two part, ascending guitar solo. The first part builds greatly, and the second part has almost inaudible growling by Phil. Even though it ends with machine gun riffs, this song seems sort of calm and restrained for a Pantera song.
“I Can’t Hide” has a small drum intro, then fast (not the fastest, though) guitars and drums kick in. Even though it has some nice, trademark yells, this song has a bluesy feel to it. It seems like Pantera wanted to make a heavy song, but they couldn’t break free of their restraints. The song ends with bobbing riffs.
I only have a few minor problems with the songs Pantera chose for this concert, and the order they chose to play them in. First of all, as previously mentioned, I think “Cowboys from Hell” should have been the second to last song. Next, I would’ve liked to see Pantera include the acoustic ballad “Suicide Note, Part 1.” I’m sure this would have been a very touching and solemn moment (even though that song isn’t a good representation of Pantera). Finally, some bands do a cover song or two when they tour, and this album didn’t have any of those. But all is forgiven, because the songs that ARE here are sheer classics.
If “Official Live: 101 Proof” had some “Reinventing the Steel” songs on it, and I would say this is Pantera’s greatest hits compilation. On this C.D., unlike their official Greatest Hits album, the band didn’t ignore their “Great Southern Trendkill” album (probably because this C.D. came out in 1997, a year after “TGSTK” was released.)
So, this is my favorite live C.D. I recommend it to all Pantera fans, fans of live albums, and metalheads in general. Even if you still aren’t a fan of live albums, you should own “Official Live” for the two unreleased studio cuts (even though they aren’t Pantera’s best songs, they’re essential listening).