Intro music isn’t something that they've done before (in the UK at least), but ‘Down’ by Harry Nilsson is quite frankly genius; the psychedelic pop tune is a nod of the guys’ honky tonk roots and the kind of music you might still experience in the French Quarter of New Orleans today. The band take the stage and open with ‘Eyes of the South’ from their debut record ‘N.O.L.A’, a perfect choice which slow-burns at first, but quickly grows with intensity and as Anselmo bellows the first lyric ‘GODDAMN!’ – the entire floor turns into a gigantic heaving pit.
The energy both on and offstage is incredibly impressive; balled up fists are pumped relentlessly and the entire room is instantly transformed into a sea of beer and hair. Down play nothing from their last full album ‘Down III: Over the Under’, but do pepper (no pun intended) the set with three tracks from ‘Down IV: The Purple EP’; the debut single ‘Witchtripper’, plus ‘Open Coffins’ and ‘Misfortune Teller’ – these three slip into the set list alongside material over two decades old with authentic ease and are received well. Down have never chosen to address the departure of Rex Brown and the addition of Pat Brudders on bass in a live capacity, but it doesn’t actually matter as much as it threatened to. I’m sure that die-hard Down fans will agree – this is simply a new chapter for them professionally. The camaraderie, friendship and brotherhood shared between this group is evident as they joke and jostle throughout the performance. It demonstrates the love and history between them and gives the show an edge of fun, which is just as well because these musicians play with such passion and such strength that it would be easy for a live show to become a serious affair. But this is A) Saturday night B) in the home of heavy metal and C) with Down and these factors combined mean that a good time is imminent.
The band never play ‘Lifer’ without dedicating it to ex-Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell who was brutally murdered in 2004 and tonight is no exception. Anselmo turns the mic to the crowd repeatedly throughout the entire song and they respond by screaming every single word back, deafening in volume and rich with emotion. Guitarists Pepper Keen and Kirk Windstein thrash about the stage, shredding ferociously, the former holding up his Gibson under the flash of blue and red stage lights. Down leave the stage after ten songs and return with an encore...
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