Saturday, November 03, 2007


It’s not often that a band comes to town without an opening act, but that’s what Down did when they came to play First Avenue here in Minneapolis. With the venue completely packed with fans of all ages and sizes, before Down came on, we were all treated to a video montage of rock performances of some of the classic rock greats, such as Cream, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath.

After this quite lengthy montage (it was on for over an hour), the band finally came on stage to immense amounts of cheering. They busted right into playing, eschewing any pre-playing bantering. From that moment on, everyone was treated to almost two hours of stoner metal, and there definitely would have been more had there not been a curfew that needed to be enforced for all of the young ones that came out to the show.

Having been to a fair share of metal and metalcore shows lately, it’s seemed like so many bands are only concerned with how many breakdowns they can fit in or how “heavy” they can sound that they forgot about writing solid riffs and good songs. Down reacquainted me with the notion of heaviness in the classic sense of the word. They didn’t fill their set with breakdowns (in fact there were none) or resort to screaming as loud as they could, instead they played some of the sludgiest, heaviest riffs written in the past couple of decades. Not since the great Sabbath has a band been able to capture that classic rock vibe in a modern setting.

Phil Anselmo is a hell of a frontman, commanding in presence and getting the crowd into it. And he didn’t get people into their performance using the usual clichéd tactics most frontmen use, such as making people clap or asking for applause or telling people to get up. What he did was sing his heart out, talk a little with the crowd between songs, and sing his heart out some more. He’s always had pipes, but it seems like they were made for this type of music as his gritty, loud singing fit the band’s vibe perfectly.

Throughout their set, they managed to mix together a fair number of songs from all of their albums, focusing a little more time on songs from their debut and their latest, giving II a little less focus, but still covering the better songs from that album.

There was a phenomenal reaction to the songs from Over the Under with one of the biggest crowd reactions coming in the form of cheers for “Beneath the Tides”. It was also great to see the crowd get into things when they slowed everything down to play “Jail” near the end of their set before breaking into the crowd pleasing “Bury Me in Smoke”. Talk about a tremendous way to end a set. Everything about that song feels and sounds loud. Listening to it on CD is nothing compared to hearing it blasting at you in a live environment.

It’s really rare to see a band that seems to love to death what they are doing and who do what they do extremely well. Down is that rarity. Take the time to see them if you have the chance. It’s more than worth any price of admission.

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