Down: Live Review From Glasgow ABC

...there's gonna be a certain excited tension in the queue... Graeme Johnston goes to see Down at the Glasgow ABC.

Chay Woodman

Date published: 1st Jun 2006

When rumours abound pre-gig that a band have recently been playing every single song off their two killer albums, there's gonna be a certain excited tension in the queue; when that band is supergroup DOWN - with Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity), Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), Rex Brown (Pantera), and Jimmy Bower (Crowbar) - and the gig marks the return of the legendary PHIL ANSELMO to Scottish ground, you've got a dynamite gig on your hands. The charges are set and the match lit...

The opening salvo, for those of us filling the ex-cinema ABC venue in advance of the 8pm kick-off, is a big screen video of tantalising rock cuts - we're shown classic clips of Sabbath, Zeppelin, ZZ Top and the like, spliced with Down home movies and tour diaries. Inspiring sing-a-longs and headbangs, it's the perfect way to pump up a metal crowd for what's to come - throw in the brilliantly-received promo vid for Down's "Stone The Crow", and the crowd's a rabid pack of dogs slobbering for prime chunks of meat.

Down deliver. "10...9...8...7...6...6...6" says the big screen before it's torn down, the curtain dropped, and the metal all-stars step on-stage. Anselmo swaggers on to a fucking MASSIVE reception - fanatical worship, chants, screams spreading through the venue like the Lord Himself just stepped out. Stumbling, he's clearly as pissed as a Sauciehall jakey, but that matters not for now.  We're basking in the moment.

"Lysergik Funeral Procession" opens a bag of blues-driven Southern rock fun despite its deceptive title.  Pepper Keenan - renowned shredder and vocalist with stoner metal dudes COC - windmills hair, bangs head and looks delighted. This is a project left too long on the backburner, and the relief of getting it out on the road is evident - most of all from Mr Anselmo, front and centre, whose bizarre wrinkle-faced, pet-lipped metal scowls cannot hide the big fucking grin that sneaks out from time to time.

My personal favourite "Lifer", from debut NOLA, is affectionately dedicated to our fallen metal comrade Dimebag Darrell. The moshpit grows and grows, Anselmo encouraging the crowd to jump around and insisting throughout the night that "you guys at the back are fucking pussies!"

Arrogant and self-assured, there's no doubt, but everything Anselmo says tonight is done with a playful twinkle in the eye - behind the apparent redneck exterior, it seems, there's a funny and genuine showman with his own brand of stage banter.

The problem is, in his drunken stupour, that he doesn't know when to shut up. Song intros become 5 minute rants about Glasgow being "the greatest crowd in the world", and sparing the odd funny moment - Phil struggling to put on a fan's biker jacket, grumbling something about The Fonz and wrestling to get it back off is genuinely hilarious - you can't help but wish for a sober singer. Glances and frowns suggest his bandmates feel the same.

You can't really fault Phil Anselmo, though, mangled or not. His guttural roars and soaring vocals sound as chilling and fresh as they did a decade ago, and the band's relentless, crushing set clocks in at just under 2 hours.

During one of several encores, they whip out the mega-chilled "Jail", apparently a UK exclusive performance that "Americans aren't worthy of hearing," quips Phil with a wink. Drummer Bower steps out from behind his kit to hit some old fashioned bongos, and the crowd falls into a revered silence as they watch masters at work.

Classic "Stone The Crow" is aired before the night's end, and Phil finds time for a cheeky play with Keenan's guitar, knocking out some old school metal riffs like Sabbath's "Iron Man". In playful spirits, clearly, the drunken Phil Anselmo looks at his happiest being back on the road; and thank God he is.

Graeme Johnston

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