By Jake Ebdale
Date / Venue: Thursday March 6th, The Powerstation, Auckland
It started with a muddy rumble, a wave of B.O. and what seemed like a tornado of unwashed, matted hair deep within the pit. I'll use that overused music reviewer's phrase, but the room did literally explode, along with the speakers. A remarkably loud, sludgy, weed smoke riff announced the opening ‘Eyes of the South', marking the last show of Down's Soundwave tour.
Phil Anselmo walked on stage, stoic, overweight and belligerent as ever, necking the remnants of a Stella. It was definitely a sight to see. I was only there to see Anselmo in the flesh, plain and simple. Down's output hasn't really gripped me since 1995's NOLA, but have always been a huge Pantera fan. Just to be in the same room as this guy was good enough. NOLA was impressive in that it sounded nothing like Pantera at the time but matched their intensity levels; it was groovy, it was more Sabbath than any of the member's other outfits, and above all it sounded like they were all very, very stoned.
This ethos was representative of the Powerstation show. As it was the last show of the tour, all the members, including COC's Pepper Keenan and the relentless, clobbering drummer that is Jimmy Bower, were in full party mode. Anselmo spat water at the crowd, beat himself with the mic until he bled, spoke incoherently and screamed his guts out. Bower squeezed on a female fan's boob tube singlet towards the end, and a bald Anselmo doppelganger ran on stage being tackled by security not long after, knocking over a tall, brunette lady in the process. Manic shit.
The show was indeed brief, but Down did their job - they fucking killed it. Standouts included ‘Ghosts of the Mississippi', their sole semi-hit ‘Stone the Crow' and the perpetual closer ‘Bury Me in Smoke', in which members of the opening bands Suicide Silence and Depths took over the instruments until all of Down were instead holding a beer on stage. Another highlight included Anselmo dedicating NOLA highlight ‘Lifer' to both Jeff Hanneman and Dimebag Darrell, waving a fan's Pantera shirt to screams of approval from the crowd. It was a special, brief, pummeling show. Hopefully they're back with a longer, clearer set in the near future.