Down Live In West Hollywood, CA

By Sefany Jones, Contributing Editor
Thursday, May 30, 2002 @ 12:44 AM

Down 'Light Up' At The House o

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REVIEW BY: con_carne

As Phil Anselmo introduced one of the songs of this evening's show, he said in his own trademark style, "This next song is not for the skeptics, or the critics, or those who want to 'see what's going on,' but for those who want to hear some heavy motherfuckin' music..." or something like that. And I had to think. Now I was definitely at this show to hear some good rock n' roll, just like everybody else. But I admit, I was also there to see for myself exactly what was going on with Down.

You see, up until recently, Down had been some sort of mystery band to me; they sounded great, but were never heard from. Most of us know that Down had made very few public appearances in their existence, the members each had their other bands to attend to, they don't get promoted by the powers that be and all that. Suddenly this year, I found out that not only are they putting out another CD, but coming to my town to play. And since you won't catch me anywhere near Ozzfest, I decided I had to go this show.

I was imagining all kinds of stuff about what this would be like. We know this is a bunch of friends from New Orleans, and Down is a "side project" of theirs. What were they going to do, I wondered? Were they going to do any covers? Were they going to play "Mouth For War?" or "Walk"? Were they going to bring in material from their other numerous side projects? Heck, I even wondered if any special guests were going to show up like Dimebag! Well, this show sure put me in my place. This evening, to me, the mystery was solved. On this night the boys in the band drove the point home, and then some on what is going on with Down: some damn good rock n' roll, no more, no less. And to hell with preconceived notions.

For those of you who do not know, Down consists of Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown of Pantera fame, Kirk Windstein and Jimmy Bower from Crowbar, and Pepper Keenan from COC. By the way, I am a big fan of all three of these bands, that's really why I started listening to Down. From the start of their set, the band blew away my ideas of what I thought they were going to be like. Since I knew they were all sort of friends, I was afraid they might stand there on stage, just noodling around and making inside jokes. Boy, was I wrong, and I should have known better. The band opened their set with all guns blazing, and did not let up until the end.

Many of Down's hardest-rocking songs also demonstrate something that is unique about this band, especially compared to Pantera: these songs have melody. Some highlights in their set included "Lifer" from their Nola album, a straight-up rocker with a killer riff. There was also "There's Something On My Side" from their latest, a song that starts off fast, but midway through meanders into looser parts.

Watching Phil sing, I could tell that he enjoyed the actual singing these songs required. I felt he really put himself into every song he sang. Contrast this with the screaming and growling he does in Pantera, something I have never been too crazy about personally. I always listened to Pantera for the guitars and the drums, which are outstanding. I did not pay too much mind to Phil. I am glad to see Phil expanding his formidable vocal abilities beyond what can be found on most Pantera songs. And for that matter, bassist Rex, who I know as a monster in Pantera, spent most of this evening in a more relaxed vibe, and taking the time during Phil's ample rants to just chill, smoke a cigarette and joke around with the other band members.

This concert might be a disappointment for those of you expecting to hear some surprise favorites from the Down members' other bands. So far as I could tell, the set consisted exclusively of material from their two albums: Nola and Down II. But to me, this ended up not mattering at all, mostly because the concert showed such a variety of styles as to keep things interesting. Of course, the heavy Sabbath sound is everywhere on both discs, but those of you who have heard them might have noticed that Down II expands a little more into different styles than does their debut, Nola. One example in the show was "Ghosts Along the Mississippi," which I found amazing when they played it live. The song is hard and fast, but turns into a lamentful sound during the chorus.

Another such song that they played was "Stone the Crow," which is a straight-up ballad, but I like it. The crowd also seemed to like this song, because Phil let them sing the chorus, and lots of people seemed to know the words. They also played a funny-sounding loungey song, I believe it was "Lies, I Don't Know What They Say But..." While introducing this song, Phil implored the crowd that this is a song for smoking, and "I wanna smell it." He then proceeded to light up a fat one as Pepper played the relaxed guitar part, and the light man provided some psychedelic colorful lights for scenery. Good old Phil.

Well, so much for the mystery of Down. This show made the point loud and clear that they are about heavy rock n' roll, with an adventurous approach to style. I might have guessed from the fact that my ticket stub billed this show "An Evening With Down." This show was just about a real band who were tight playing great music. Oh, and near the end of the show, Phil told the crowd "We'll be back, I guarantee it." I sure hope so.

I did want to add a comment about some rants I have read on these pages from folks who are obviously frustrated that good musicians such as the guys from Pantera take time off from their main bands to do side projects. People, the way I see it, you can't expect your favorite bands to relentlessly put out the same style of music all the time (though we know there are many exceptions). If you truly like your favorite bands, you should know it is good for them to explore different styles, even if it is under the guise of a "side project."

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