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Down and Black Label Society effortlessly crush Grand Prairie, TX

Godzilla who? The insane Revolver Golden Gods Tour was the true monstrous event of the month, captivating the attention of all in attendance at the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas, over the weekend. On May 23, 2014, New Orleans' finest, Down, as well as the fantastic Zakk Wylde & Black Label Society, annihilated the crowd with sublimely heavy music. Some bands rely on elaborate stage shows, offering flash without much substance, but Down & BLS got right to the point and pummeled rock and metal fans with uncompromising aggression, in the best way imaginable.

Metal legend, vocalist Philip H. Anselmo of Down stares down the DFW crowd.
Sheila Esmaili-Doki

Verizon Theater is a consistently excellent venue, and there is not a bad seat in the house. A diverse array of concertgoers were present this night, and it was interesting to observe that while there were a few people who demonstrated clear preferences -- some Down fans who fled before BLS hit the stage, and some BLS devotees who intentionally skipped Down -- the majority of those in attendance seemed incredibly passionate about both bands, displaying great enthusiasm throughout the show. It is tough to imagine many other metal bands with fanbases quite as dedicated as these two. There was certainly not a dull moment.

Philip H. Anselmo is insanely versatile, as proven with his multiple eclectic projects over the years. Best known for fronting the legendary Pantera, Anselmo is a force to be reckoned with in all aspects, particularly in the live environment. His ability to not only interact, but simply mesmerize, the masses with a single emphatic word or goosebump-evoking scream is unmatched. Down is one of the tightest bands imaginable, and while this is obvious on all their studio albums, it is exponentially more evident in concert. Their musicianship is truly something special. The onstage chemistry between Anselmo, incredible guitarist Pepper Keenan, drummer Jimmy Bower, bassist Pat Bruders, and new guitarist Bobby Landgraf is nothing short of magnificent.

And much to the delight of Down's legions of dedicated fans, their set had a large percentage of tracks from NOLA, the classic 1995 debut album, and rightfully the one held in highest regard by most Down die-hards. "Eyes of the South" opened the set, slow-building and giving way to blistering riffs and the famous, scathing Anselmo scream of "Goddamn!"

The infectious, rumbling tones of "Pillars of Eternity" and "Hail the Leaf" were sure highlights, and the crowd became absolutely maniacal at the first sounds of the anthemic, pummeling "Lifer", for which Anselmo offered a heartfelt dedication to his dear friends and fallen, legendary Dallas-based guitarists, Mike Scaccia (Rigor Mortis, Ministry) and Dimebag Darrell Abbott (Pantera, Damageplan). And just in case there was any doubt that the new material beautifully obliterates all in its path -- "We Knew Him Well", the first single from the band's new EP, Down IV: Part II, is instant love, with the unforgettable repetitions of "Wise up, good luck!" The ridiculously catchy "Witchtripper" (from Down IV: Part I/"The Purple EP") was also fortunately included in the set, proving immediately to be really wonderful live. As Down concluded their show with one of the best album closers of all time, NOLA's "Bury Me In Smoke", Anselmo exited the stage with a Led Zeppelin homage, his trademark a-cappella wail of "And she's buying... a stair...fucking...way... to Heaven."

Black Label Society wasted no time in opening with their new single, "My Dying Time". It is safe to say this song went over perfectly live, with a suspenseful introduction, and a nice juxtaposition of melodic, multilayered vocals and pulverizing guitars. "Godspeed Hellbound" (from 2010's Order of the Black) must be experienced live to be appreciated for the beast it is, and it followed the opening song brilliantly. Zakk Wylde is a guitar phenomenon, and has an absolutely awe-inspiring stage presence. The band continued to barrel out fast-paced, headbang-worthy tunes, with spellbinding solos, and a definite highlight of the BLS set was the inclusion of "In This River", dedicated to Dimebag Darrell. During this poignant, melodic song, Wylde played piano, and the crowd was completely fascinated. It was quite an experience.

Concluding their set with hits like "Suicide Messiah" and "Stillborn" was enough to incite a most excellent chaos within the crowd, but the best was yet to come. Rex Brown (ex-Pantera, Down; currently in Kill Devil Hill) and Anselmo joined Black Label Society onstage for what may be the closest to a 'Pantera reunion' the world might ever see. The performance of "I'm Broken" from 1994's Far Beyond Driven was powerful beyond what any words can begin to express. The crowd's energy level was at an all-time high, the sound was impeccable, and it was an unforgettable moment in which time seemed to stop -- live, heavy metal music at its most impactful.

This show was certainly one that the DFW metal crowd will be talking about for weeks and months to come. This would have been the case even without the special performance at the end -- but with "I'm Broken" as the grand finale, this gig instantly became a legendary one. Down and Black Label Society are both must-see bands, and to miss the opportunity to catch either of those bands on any and all future tours would be a grave mistake on the part of any fan of hard rock and heavy metal music.

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