The South's finest metal musicians returned to New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom last night, as DOWN played a crushing set for a frenzied crowd of metalheads.
After a stunning show at the Best Buy Theater Thursday night (my review here), Down played Philadelphia on Friday before returning to the tri-state area on Saturday. The New Orleans supergroup has been touring in fits and starts over the past few years, as work on a long-awaited album fourth progresses and the musicians share time with their other bands. This ‘mini-tour’ features only one last remaining date in Nashville, TN, before the group heads to Europe for a handful of festival dates.
The lack of regular Down tour dates made last night and Thursday night’s shows all the more special, because after a year and a half since Down last came to New York City, one might have forgotten just how damn good this band is. Frontman Phil Anslemo is regularly ranked as one of heavy metal’s most talented frontmen, and it’s not just his ability to sing, scream, and croon with raw aggression and fervor. Anselmo projects ass-kicking bravado with every move he makes, and a Down concert is nothing if not an exercise in kicking ass for 90 straight minutes.
In contrast to Thursday’s show at the modern, comfortable, flat screen-filled Times Square Best Buy Theater, the Starland Ballroom is a grungy club in an industrial area, and last night it seemed to be populated purely by aggressive security staffers and even more aggressive Jersey metalheads. While Best Buy is a great venue, Starland’s cramped quarters and ‘what-are-YOU-lookin’ at?’ sensibilities meshed perfectly with the violent music about to be unleashed on the thousand or so packed-in fans.
Down kicked off the show with Eyes of the South, taking their time jamming out on the bluesy opening before exploding into full heavy metal mode, sending mosh pits into a frenzy and crowdsurfers appearing from every direction. Starland’s club-style layout forces fans up front into one small area and everyone else off to the sides, and the central floor was essentially one giant free-for-all, with bodies slamming into one another for the entirety of the show.
Anselmo was in full messianic-frontman mode as usual, easily commanding the crowd in between bellowing through his vocals and thrashing around during instrumental breakdowns. The rest of the band hit that magical mix between tightly locked in and loosely jammy, pounding through slower songs with a groove that could knock an elephant unconscious on Lysergic Funeral Procession and Ghosts Along The Mississippi, and stepping up the pace as fans in all corners screamed along on heavier tracks like Lifer and N.O.D.
Anselmo, sporting a visible head scar from his bloody run-in with a guitar at the New York show, dedicated an especially intense Losing All to everyone suffering from the economic downturn. The song also saw a violent scuffle break out just feet from the stage - watch my high quality video of Losing All, including an interruption by the fight, from the left sidebar of this page.