An Evening With Down
Thursday, October 4, 2007
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
In one of the worst natural disasters to hit North America, Hurricane Katrina killed nearly two thousand people and displaced countless others residing in the southern U.S. states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida in late August 2005. The region hardest hit, though, was New Orleans and the surrounding area. The levees built to protect the below-sea-level city from the surging waters of the Gulf of Mexico were powerless to the thirty-foot waves that decimated the city, leaving death, destruction and cataclysmic disaster in the storm’s wake. At one point, eighty-five percent of New Orleans was under water and the cost of damages has approached $100 million US.
While New Orleans continues to fight an uphill battle toward regaining some semblance of the city’s former glory, one thing that has remained constant throughout time is the city’s rich history and diverse cultural demographic that has spawned some of the greatest music ever recorded. Jazz is traditionally the first genre of popular music that is credited to the area however heavy metal has also maintained a surefooted stance in the city’s underground. Bands like Eyehategod, Crowbar, Soilent Green and Goatwhore have carried the torch for the last fifteen years with sludgy musical beatings that are heavy on groove. The most well-known group hailing from “The Big Easy,” though, is certainly Down. A “supergroup” of sorts, Down features vocalist Philip Anselmo (ex-Pantera; Superjoint Ritual), guitarists Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity) and Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), bassist Rex Brown (ex-Pantera) and drummer Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod; Superjoint Ritual).
With three albums now under their belts, the band took to the road for a string dates dubbed “An Evening With Down” in support of their brand-new release III: OVER THE UNDER. That album is heavily influenced by the tragedy and plight witnessed by the band members over the past two years as well as the death of Anselmo and Brown’s former bandmate, “Dimebag” Darrell. After an unsuccessful run in the spring opening for Heaven and Hell and Megadeth where strep-throat sidelined Anselmo after only two dates, Down was finally ready to unleash some of their demons upon a sold-out Vancouver crowd.
Bypassing the traditional opening act, Down instead had two large projection screens that played what was called simply, “Down Movie.” The thirty-minute video featured backstage and road footage shot over the band’s history interspersed with clips and videos of bands that have influenced Down’s sound: KISS, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy. Once the film concluded, the large black curtain that shrouded the stage dropped and Down immediately launched into “The Path” from III: OVER THE UNDER. The band didn’t stop for almost two hours, either. The set was heavily-weighted towards NOLA and III: OVER THE UNDER but II: A BUSTLE IN YOUR HEDGEROW still managed to secure four tracks.
Anselmo’s voice sounded exceptionally strong and the singer has not looked this healthy and ready for battle in years. His trademark pout and heavy-lidded gaze remain intact but his well-documented back problems—or perhaps nearing age forty—have clearly slowed him down on stage. Gone are the jumps and swaggering bravado and in their place, Anselmo seemed reserved, self-aware and uncharacteristically humble. Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein absolutely tore up the songs with crunchy, bigger-than-life riffs and blistering solos on “Learn From This Mistake,” “Three Suns and One Star” and the crowd favourite “Stone The Crow.” After Anselmo’s dedication to “Dimebag” Darrell, Keenan immediately leaned into the punishing riff of “Lifer” and the molasses-thick rhythm section of Rex Brown and Jimmy Bower rocked the very foundations of the venue. The slow, bluesy crawl of “Learn From This Mistake” and the jazzy “Lies, I Don’t Know What They Say But...” were a temporary respite after a vicious headbanging session during the opening of “Ghosts Along The Mississippi” that had everyone nodding in unison. New tracks “On March The Saints” and “N.O.D.” are amazing live with swinging grooves and mammoth riffs. As a lead-in, Anselmo, preaching as only he can do, noted that “On March The Saints” is “not about football but overcoming tragedy.” The Gospel According To Philip, indeed. Utilizing the vocal talents of Keenan and Windstein, singers in Corrosion of Conformity and Crowbar, respectively, the three-part harmonies of “Eyes of The South” were fully realized in the live setting to maximum effect. The encore featured the spaced-out trip of “Jail,” the infectious “Stone The Crow” and the chugging groove of “Bury Me In Smoke”—all culled from NOLA—and the crowd went berserk. For their farewell, Anselmo ad-libbed the final verse of “Nothing In Return (Walk Away)” with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”: “And when we walk away, there will be no coming home…and she’s buying a stairway to heaven” before dropping the microphone and walking off stage.
Lysergik Funeral Procession
Three Suns and One Star
Hail The Leaf
Ghosts Along The Mississippi
Learn From This Mistake
Lies, I Don’t Know What They Say But...
On March The Saints
Eyes of The South
Stone The Crow
Bury Me In Smoke
(*** “Never Try," "Mourn” and “Beneath The Tides” were also on the bottom of the printed setlist but were not played.)
Philip Anselmo asked one simple request several times through the evening: “spread the word”. Given the fact this show has had a week to sink in, there is still strong buzz circulating that An Evening With Down is one of the best shows of 2007. The band genuinely appeared to be having fun, the setlist was phenomenal (“Stained Glass Cross” and “Temptation’s Wings” would have been the icing on the cake) and the crowd was incredibly pumped and appreciative of Down stopping by for a visit. For all the hardships, tragedies and obstacles Down has faced over the past two years, the result is all that much sweeter.
***Thanks to Jessica at Live Nation for the press pass.
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