By: Rick Florino
"We've got one night together," declared Philip Anselmo at the start of Down's sold out Key Club show. "Let's make this cocksucker fucking memorable."
Anselmo, Pepper Keenan, Kirk Windstein, and Jimmy Bower didn't just make the night "fucking memorable," they made it downright legendary. Now, the Down "cult" certainly wouldn't expect anything less, but the group's descent upon Los Angeles trumped even those kinds of lofty fan expectations.
Down springs to life on stage like no other band in heavy metal, hard rock, or rock 'n' roll right now. Kicking the evening off, "Hail the Leaf" from NOLA hovered like smoke from the band's amps, raging with a deluge of blues inflection and Sabb'ed out grit courtesy of Keenan and Windstein. Bower's drums thundered with earth-shattering intensity as Pat Bruders's bass reverberated infinitely. Anselmo carried the chorus with charisma and his incomparable, immortal, and impenetrable delivery.
Dedicating "Lifer" to Dimebag Darrell, these five titans cruised through a towering groove and riff wall, equally exuding panache and power. In between songs, Anselmo's sense of humor hit just as hard as these timeless anthems.
"Ya'll could be bowling tonight," he smiled. "If it wasn't for this cult audience, we'd have no reason to do this."
"Witchtripper" from last year's triumphant Down IV Part I - The Purple EP cast an unbreakable spell on the packed house, igniting endless movement from the pit and staggering audience participation. "Open Coffins" stood emblematic of Down's brilliance. The avalanche of six-string power exploded on impact as Anselmo's voice shined on the melodic chorus. "Temptation's Wings" and "Losing All" transported everyone into the thickest and darkest corners of NOLA.
Every fan in the crowd stood transfixed, and they responded to every heavy musical movement on stage with a powder keg of fervor and enthusiasm. The room practically overheated with sweat and raw energy. Only Down could bring that out of a Los Angeles crowd.
"Most of you know me by now," Anselmo went on. "I don't blow smoke unless smoke need to be blown. This is the best fucking crowd on the tour so far."
Well, that's just because it was the best show the Sunset Strip has seen in God knows how long. "Lysergik Funeral Procession" slayed with classic spirit, oscillating from Southern Gothic sludge into an overpowering buildup of flawless riffs as Anselmo sang, "And I'm so damn mad, so fucking mad, to lose that special darkness."
"Ghosts Along the Mississippi" and "New Orleans is a Dying Whore" dove back into Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow, while "The Misfortune Teller" mounted with epic sonic bombast and poetic lyrical brilliance.
Once again shining a light firmly on the underground, Anselmo asked, "Anybody a Portal fan?" and then he proceeded to share his excitement over the Australian outfit's new record. That's the magic of a Down show. It's like hanging out with these icons as much as it is watching them.
A powerful "Stone the Crow" took flight into "Bury Me in Smoke" and Anselmo ended the night the only fitting way, dropping a line from Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven".
Mind you, he did all of this while battling a fever. That's precisely the Down ethos though. There's no fucking around. There's no wasting time. There's no bullshit. There's just music. The music just so happens to be better than everything else out there.
There's no doubt everyone in attendance will remember this show for a long time to come.