Phil Anselmo and friends throw DOWN w/ In Solitude: Summit Music Hall, 09/06/11

Phil Anselmo might be known as much for being an asshole as he is for bitch-slapping your eardrums with bands like (the legendary) Pantera, Arson Anthem and the super ‘southern sludge’ group, Down. Anselmo will be the first to admit he’s done and said some regrettable things in the past, sometimes he’ll say some new regrettable thing in that same breath, but that’s just Phil. He’s not unapologetic, but he does speak his mind and you can take him or leave, he seriously doesn’t give a fuck. In fact, if I were to say much more on this subject, I would probably be considered one of the ‘fucking cowards hiding behind a computer‘ that he so eloquently lashed out against before dedicating Temptation’s Wings to the kids in the crowd. ‘Hope this helps some of you youngsters grow up tonight’ Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t, but Anselmo proved he had matured considerably when one of those youngsters yelled ‘Fuck you!‘ — the bald, skull-tattooed Anselmo I saw front Pantera in front of a sold-out crowd at San Diego Sport Arena in ’94 would have beat that little punk dumb (or have had the crowd do it for him, as he did to the skinhead eyeballing him in San Diego) — but last night he shrugged it off with a ‘yeah, fuck me‘ and got back to work conducting the human vortex swirling below him.

Say what you will about Phil Anselmo, the dude can lead a band of hard hitting motherfuckers and command a crowd of adrenaline raged hotheads like no other. He was born for the stage and although seeing Down will never feed that ravenous hunger I have for a live, hot dose of Pantera, it does sooth the savage beast for just enough time to realize he’s still got it — the ‘I’ll beat you down, piss on you and take your woman’ aggression and the hell raising screams — the dude sounds just like he did when I last saw him 17 years ago.

Muthafucking Denver, Colorado!!!” Those were the first words out of Anselmo‘s mouth as joined the rest of the southern sludge superheros onstage. In case you didn’t know, that’s Pepper Keenan from Corrosion of Conformity on guitar. The bald dude with the beard? Kirk Windstein of Crowbar. Ex-Goatwhore and current Crowbar bassist Pat Bruders is up there as well. And that’s the godfather back there on drums, Jimmy Bower. Bower has been involved in all the aforementioned bands as well as Eyehategod. These legends come together with Anselmo to make New Orleans metal for the masses.

They warmed things up with an ode to the smokers in crowd, Hail The Leaf, before taking us down The Path, but it wasn’t until the dedication to Dimebag in the form of Lifer that the circle pit expanded, decimating everything in its path. You don’t joke around with the name Dimebag Darrell and neither the band nor the audience took this dedication lightly.

Continuing through selections from Nola and Down II, Anselmo was absolutely feeding off the crowd — screaming for their attention, demanding it, literally getting down on this knees and begging it for. Appreciative is a pathetic description of how much love he was showing the faithful in Denver last night, but don’t take that to mean weak. Anselmo might have lost the hostility, but the man is still fuckin’ brutal — I would not recommend taking his generosity for granted unless you want to waken the sleeping beast.

It is hard to believe New Orleans is a Dying Whore was written years before Hurricane Katrina beat the city down with ruthless force. The riffs speeding off that stage made the floor vibrate — like soldiers marching citizens out of a annihilated city. I couldn’t help but see those images of the people stuck on the bridges and on top of their homes, waiting for a government that would respond with too little, way too late.

New Orleans is a dying whore
Stripped down and beat to the floor
New Orleans is a dying whore

New Orleans is a dying whore
Blood covered, stuck to my floor
New Orleans is a dying whore

If that’s not a reason to get fuckin’ hostile, I don’t know what is. It was at this point that a few fights broke out, but were quickly put to rest. In fact, the brawl next to me ended with the two men hugging it out. Sometimes that aggression just needs an outlet.

The chaos continued through most of Nola without pause, Losing All, Underneath Everything, Eyes of the South — and throughout it all Anselmo tried to dismiss any notions that he, himself, had ‘grown up’. Spitting water, snot and spit were a common act, as was fucking with Windstein. Pulling on his beard, biting his head, rolling up his sleeves…he seemed intent on driving the man mad! It’s good to see the massive shit this guy has been through hasn’t killedhis spirit. I know I’m repeating myself here, but his stage presence, his voice and his energy hasn’t change one bit in all these years.

The encore consisted of Stone the Crow and an 11 minute version of Bury Me In Smoke with members of In Solitude and Ponykiller. After that, the ringing in my head was louder than Anselmo closing with the first few lines of Stairway To Heaven.

I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect walking into the venue last night. I haven’t been listening to Down for long and the main reason I was there was out of curiosity. I couldn’t be a bigger Pantera fan and I wanted to see Phil Anselmo live. Damn, I’m glad I did! He exceeded all expectations and every member of the band was on it! I don’t give a shit if Phil is an asshole (personally, I think people like to demonize him, take what he says out of context, etc…but that’s just me), he can be whatever he wants in ‘real life’ as long as he continues to do what he did last night.

Young, Swedish, old school metal throwbacks, In Solitude, opened the show. These guys from Uppsala are leading a new wave of Swedish heavy metal that look to bands like Mercyful Fate, Priest and Maiden as inspiration. Alongside Ghost and Portrait (among others), In Solitude take after the black metal scene with their incense burning and Satantic lyrics, but unlike black metal, they actually sing their love songs to the devil. The make-up (not quite corpsepaint) wearing Pelle “Hornper” Åhma might have confused the Down crowd at first, but once they got past the imagery and got down to the straight up heavy metal below, they couldn’t help but bang their head as Åhma poured his black heart out to the one below. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

Hail the Leaf
The Path
Lysergik Funeral Procession
Pillars of Eternity
Ghosts Along the Mississippi
Temptation’s Wings
New Orleans is a Dying Whore
Losing All
Underneath Everything
Eyes of the South

Stone the Crow
Bury Me in Smoke