Philip H. Anselmo returned to New York City on Friday night, and after a blistering 90 minutes of the headbanging, voice-shredding, full-blooded Anselmo experience, heavy metal music will never be the same.
It’s not like Philip isn’t a regular guest to our city - he appears annually with Down at the Best Buy Theater and has played treasured Pantera tracks at two dates of the Metal Masters series (video and reviews of Metal Masters can be seen here). If anything, Philip, along with his close friend Bruce Corbitt of Warbeast, have plied their music coast-to-coast and established their respective bands as must-sees in the heavy metal world.
But Friday night’s solo show, featuring “the Kid” himself and solo band The Illegals, proved to be far more intimate - and far more intense - than any other Anselmo experience in years. Philip’s new music is the brashest and angriest statement the singer has ever recorded, and that rage was front and center when Philip exploded on stage with microphone in hand on the small Gramercy Theatre stage.
Philip repeatedly bashed that microphone into his forehead as he howled and stomped through Battalion of Zero, Betrayed, and Usurper Bastard’s Rant, three brutal tracks from Walk Through Exits Only. A trickle of blood opened on Philip’s forehead midway through Usurper Bastard’s Rant after the umpteenth blow from the mic, and the singer just smirked when he noticed, tasted his own blood from his fingertips, and continued to stomp across the stage as he howled even louder for his loyal fans.
If the rage on stage was a whirlwind of pummelling drums, snarling guitar licks, and Philip’s signature roars, then the energy in the crowd was nothing short of feral. Fans punched and kicked their way through the mosh pit, which ebbed and flowed in size but at times encompassed almost the entire width of the floor. Only a few fans were able to successfully crowdsurf simply because there was no one standing still enough to carry them overhead.
Fans also screamed along to most of Philip’s lyrics, and after Walk Through Exits Only’s title track the singer offered the night’s first special treat, part of Pantera’s Death Rattle followed by Superjoint Ritual’s F*ck Your Enemy. Together with new solo tracks like Bedroom Destroyer and Irrelevant Walls And Computer Screens, old school fans went berserk for Pantera mash up Domination/Hollow (as heard on Official Live: 101 Proof) and Cowboys From Hell favorite Primal Concrete Sledge. (My far-reaching 2010 interview with Philip discussing the CFH record can be read here.)
Also included was a partial jam of Led Zeppelin’s Dazed & Confused, played ultra slow and doomy, and might possibly be the first instance of metal fans moshing to the trippy Zeppelin standard. And as if the Pantera classics weren’t enough, for an encore Philip knocked out an Agnostic Front cover, then Arson Anthem track Wrecked Like Clockwork, before pleading to the crowd that the band was simply out of songs to play.
If there was any doubts left as to whether Anselmo remains the most important man in heavy metal, Friday night’s show erased them all. We all love Down and its Sabbath-inspired southern doom, but Philip continues to prove that he is still the loudest, roughest, most badass motherf*cker in music and unrestrained by any genre or rules whatsoever. There were no “casual fans” or “scene kids” at the Gramercy, just die-hard metalheads there to pay homage to metal’s number one alpha male and the timeless art of heavy metal shredding.
Also noteworthy was the opening set from Philip’s close friends in Warbeast, who played a half dozen crushing songs despite missing their bass player. The thrashers are one of the few bands still writing old-school riffs and guitar solos and absolutely kill it live, and metal fans should always come early if Warbeast is on the bill (see picture in slideshow on the upper left).
Philip is already talking about new music and a fall tour of some sort seems inevitable. Anselmo is a juggernaut who simply won’t stop recording, producing, and touring, and the older he gets the harder he seems to work. Hopefully we’ll see him back here in New York sooner rather than later, be it on his own, with Down, or as part of an inevitable future “side project.” Whatever form it takes, there’s no doubt that New York City is ready to welcome Philip back with open arms and devil horns raised high in the air.
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