Live Review: Philip H. Anselmo And The Illegals: A Vulgar Display of Pantera Live!

There aren’t many who can argue against the legacy of Pantera and despite the trials and tribulations surrounding Philip H. Anselmo over the duration of his career, he remains an impressive and easily recognizable vocalist and as productive as ever into his 50’s. Rather than sitting on his laurels and stepping back with the money earned from his time with the Texas Groove Metallers he has instead got many projects on the go with works by Down, Superjoint, Arson Anthem, Viking Crown, Necrophagia, En Minor, Scour and Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals all in various stages of planning. But tonight is about his Pantera tribute show “A Vulgar Display of Pantera” which sees him joined by guitarists Stephen Taylor (Superjoint) and Mike DeLeon (Flesh Hoarder, Being Killed, ex-MOD), drummer Jose Manuel “Blue” Gonzalez (Superjoint, Warbeast), and bassist Derek Engemann (Scour, ex-Cattle Decapitation) as together they play a legacy set that features select cuts from the band’s five classic albums: “Cowboys From Hell“, “Vulgar Display Of Power“, “Far Beyond Driven“, “The Great Southern Trendkill” and “Reinventing The Steel“. As it should happen, the closest this writer ever got to seeing Pantera live was seeing Damageplan rip it up on the main stage of Download Festival in 2004 and when Dimebag Darrell kicked off “Walk” fans came pouring from every single corner of Donington Park to get in the pit, creating a memory that will live long.

Starting with a mournful dark rendition of “Suicide Note Pt. I” that reminds of Alice In Chains and sees Calvin Dover of En Minor add synths and backing vocals is a wonderfully unexpected place to begin, but it seemingly puts an emotional and barefooted Anselmo off his stride as the band have to re-start “A New Level” with the vocal timing going out after dedicating the set to Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell Abbott. The band, wearing a mix of Housecore Records and Cannibal Corpse t-shirts are performing in front of an audience of 50 who are bursting their lungs during “Becoming” and having fun with it, banging their heads, gurning and stomping around the stage. Having personal favourite “Yesterday Don’t Mean Sh*t” in the set is an absolute pleasure while the camera spends a fair amount of time focused in on Mike DeLeon as he tears up the solos on a red and black Flying V, the fretboard smoking throughout. “F***ing Hostile” sees the full band except drummer Gonzalez singing along, while “War Nerve” gets performed for the first time live by The Illegals, each cut a little rough around the edges, which is exactly what you want from an adrenaline fueled live show. Dover again joins for backing vocals for a raucous rendition of “This Love“, another classic in a set of undisputed classics, this time with Stephen Taylor doing the solo. Between the cuts Anselmo talks about the legacy of Pantera living on and wanting to get out to play more shows as that is the bands life; nothing could be more true; as hard as it has been for fans not being able to see shows, it’s hard for musicians not be be able to play those shows. They live for that one hour a night when they can rip it up on stage and not seeing a heaving, sweaty mosh pit in front of them for more than a year has to be hard. “Strength Beyond Strength” is particularly venomous tonight and DeLeon nails the solo perfectly before bursting into a verse of “Goddamn Electric” without pause for breath, the extended breakdown at the end of the cut simply phenomenal. There is a break after an hour during which multiple images of the Abbott brothers are displayed on a big screen, a poignant reminder of the fact that both legends saw the end of their lives before their time before an impressive version of “Hellbound” as The Illegals return to the stage. The guitar tone is kept the same throughout, the band don’t change their instruments for different tunings or anything like that and by the time “Walk” hits, it’s huge and a little boy named Roman joins on stage for the sing-a-long. The thank yous are kept short and sweet before the ugly rampage through “Sandblasted Skin” closes the stream on a high octane note, Pantera they may not be, but a group of seasoned musicians in New Orleans know as The Illegals deliver the goods [9/10]

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