Bands always make such a big deal about playing the Roundhouse because of who played here in the past. It’s a former railway engine room, with a lot of rock ‘n’ roll history. But any similarities between the 1960s Roundhouse and today’s venue begin and end with the building’s foundations and unalterable architecture.
It’s hard to imagine any venue hosting The Doors or Hendrix and asking customers to pay £3.00 to check their bag into the cloakroom because it’s got a fucking apple cake in it. Then again, maybe our free-spirited forebears would have had something stronger than apples in the cake, even on a Sunday. There is no shortage of psychonauts tonight; but many will have had their buzz crushed by a half-hour wait for the toilet, or by the sucky sound and terrible view . . . Or by being divested of their apple cake.
Down’s Pepper Keenan probably didn’t bring apple cake and doesn’t need a piss so he’s got a whole different take on things. Categorically he is excited to be here, as well he might. It wasn’t so long ago that Down were considered a supergroup, and touring together was a novelty; now they’re their own thing, and besides any enquiries as to where the contemporary Roundhouse’s soul lies, it does hold a lot of people.
Orange Goblin and Down not only share a lot of musical DNA—viz.a mutual ardor for mid-‘70s classic rock, early Scorpions, Skynyrd, Trouble, and of course Sabbath—but they share the same worldview believes jamming hard and living hard to be the only way to live.
Goblin vocalist Ben Ward looks like he was built for hard living. Standing beside Ward gives you an idea of what it’d be like to live as a scale model of a human, as a prototype used primarily as promotional material for mailing out to Goldilocks planets to see if they’d be interested in mass production. Ward has got presence; that, allied to Joe Hoare’s perennially awesome and equally under-appreciated guitar tone, make Orange Goblin so great live.
Their sound has been called stoner metal, stoner doom and variations thereof. But it’s all metal, descendant from the aforementioned ‘70s big-riff and informed by counterculture. “Red Tide Rising”, “The Filthy and the Few” and “Some You Win, Some You Lose” . . . They’re all hits for slackers and longhairs. Orange Goblin play with a gang mentality; it’s Sons of Anarchy metal, befitting a notorious proclivity for on-tour high-jinks and an esprit de corps that’ll see them doing this until they’re too old to stand.
So too will Down. They come on to a stage lit in Master of Reality purple and the sound of Harry “Schmilsson” Nilsson’s “Down”, a little chintzy electric piano honky-tonk to help place us spiritually and mentally in the South. So far, the only New Orleans character tonight has taken on has been the mass emission of Paradise Gas from a largely male and overly drunk audience. Some have lost their battle with gravity. It’s less than fragrant but even still the Roundhouse is too refined and lacking the sawdust that Down deserve. Phil Anselmo stalks stage-front until Nilsson’s eponymous tribute is through and we’re pitched into “Eyes of the South”. It matters that the view is bad or that the sound lacks clarity because Keenan and Kirk Windstein’s riffs lose none of their ordnance or message. “Witchtripper” sounds awesome, so too “Open Coffins”. Tonight is a greatest hits set; “Lifer”, “Losing All”, etc. it’s strictly Down’s most essential joints.
“Stone the Crow”—fan footage with wonky audio
Down are at their at their most essential when they’ve got their heads down, as they do on the Down II trifecta of “Lysergik Funeral Procession”, “Ghosts Along the Mississippi” and “New Orleans Is A Dying Whore”. Phil Anselmo was designed to throw his voice into these headbanging lord-almighty riffs but he’s struggling tonight. He makes his screams and hits his notes but it’s a struggle, and between songs—when he’s weeding out complacency from the crowd, calling us assholes, telling us we’re awesome, and delivering The Philosophy that many might admit is the best part of a Down show—he’s losing the war with his throat.
A four-song encore begins with a cover of Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs” and ends in an all-star monster jam with “Bury Me in Smoke”, before Anselmo rinses his lungs for the last time for a customary Led Zep sign-off and a smashed-mic “good night”.
“Lifer”—fan footage with similarly wonky audio