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Spanning most of career legally fun for Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals

Philip H. Anselmo commands the crowd's attention and acknowledges it at the same time at Backstage Live.
Philip H. Anselmo commands the crowd's attention and acknowledges it at the same time at Backstage Live.
JAY NANDA / San Antonio Metal Music Examiner

Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals @Backstage Live

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For all the bands he's played in, for all the ups and downs of his career the past 25-plus years, Phil Anselmo knows he has fans who will see him in concert no matter what he's up to. Anselmo also knows no matter what new musical adventure he unveils, he will always strike the biggest chord by reaching into his past and pulling out the sounds of his legendary and heavily influential Dallas/Fort Worth-based band.

And that's what made Monday's gig at Backstage Live -- the first featuring his solo band Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals -- a tale of two concerts.

On a night that barely reached 30 degrees outside with pending road closures that didn't quite materialize, and with Straight Line Stitch providing another live option at Fitzgerald's, Anselmo made his solo San Antonio debut before an estimated 250-300 fans with Hymns and Author & Punisher opening. Beforehand, the SAMME went "Into The Pit" with Anselmo for the second time in 2 1/2 years (watch here).

For roughly the first hour of his 80-minute performance, Anselmo showcased some nice variety. He played six of the eight solo tunes from Walk Through Exits Only including Battalion of Zero, Betrayed, Usurper Bastard's Rant and the title track; four songs by Superjoint Ritual including Waiting For The Turning Point and F--- Your Enemy; and gave a taste of his Pantera days by performing half of Death Rattle (see setlist in slideshow at top).

Backed by guitarist Marzi Montazeri, bassist Steve Taylor and drummer Joe Gonzalez of another Dallas-based band, Warbeast, Anselmo spent a majority of time between songs talking about anything and everything. Depending on which part of the venue you watched from, some of his musings were not very discernible.

Up to that point, it was worthy of a three-star performance on a scale of five. The crowd roared its approval on each tune, though shockingly, no mosh pits had broken out, as those in attendance appeared content to look on curiously rather than unleash whatever pent-up energy they had in them. (As for the fan who yelled out a request for Anselmo to play anything by Down, he must not have received the memo that Down tunes didn't figure to be represented given that Down is the only other current band Anselmo plays in and they've been touring for the past several years).

Then the encores took the show to a whole 'nother level -- in more ways than one.

The Illegals began the sounds of Domination, from Pantera's Cowboys From Hell 1990 release, and it was as if those in the center of the venue had been let out of a cage. Bodies went airborne, circle pits bore the fury of animals in the wild, and suddenly, Anselmo had a couple hundred people singing with him. As Domination segued into Pantera's Hollow, the fury intensified. When the 50/50 tune was over, Anselmo and his cohorts could only sit back and admire the crowd. But they weren't done. The barely two-minute-long Antifaith by Superjoint Ritual came next before Anselmo set up the finale with another drawn-out speaking intro, building the suspense that eventually gave way to . . . drum roll, please . . . A New Level by, you guessed it, Pantera.

Unlike a Down concert, which focuses solely on Down material, Anselmo had played every other faction of his monstrous career. He came, he saw, he conquered. Consider yourself fortunate if you were there to witness it.

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