Phil Anselmo and the Illegals (Live Review – The Underworld, London, June 29 2019)
Phil Anselmo is one of metal’s ultimate icons, a consistently controversial, divisive, and confrontational figurehead whose signature vocals have propelled entire albums into the history books. The fact that Phil Anselmo is even standing today is a testament to his bloody-minded resilience, his refusal to lie down and let the world roll over him – even as it does its best to suffocate his will to continue. There’s no denying that he’s made mistakes along the way – but on the eve of Anselmo’s 51st birthday, the Underworld crowd made it clear that they were ready to forgive, move on, and give the man of the moment the second chance he publicly requested years ago.
Backed up by the Illegals – a gang of Marine-level musicians – and eyeing up a setlist (available in full on Setlist.fm here) that started out with five face-melting solo tracks, Phil Anselmo immediately proved his ongoing worth as a peerless metal vocalist. Of course, this was far from Anselmo’s first rodeo – but many legendary musicians eventually become complacent, disappointing their ticket-buying fans with lacklustre performances. Although he did offer sincere and profuse thanks to his audience, Anselmo barely needed to. The sheer intensity he displayed throughout every song said enough.
Now that both Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul Abbott have taken up their eternal residency spots playing the great gig in the sky, the spectre of Pantera and what could have been follows Anselmo wherever he goes. In response, Phil Anselmo and the Illegals have begun performing Pantera covers – and witnessing the man himself power through all-time classics from “I’m Broken” and “Walk” to “This Love”, “Becoming”, and the Dimebag-dedicated “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit” may be as close as we’ll ever come to experiencing Pantera live again. Given Pantera’s undeniable influence on the latest wave of modern metal bands, those songs remain as vital and timeless as they ever have.
This gig was no mere nostalgia trip – and given the size of the venue, you could hardly call it a money-grabbing cash-in. It was a chance to see a metal legend do what he does best: exorcise his demons through some of the most cathartic music ever written, while doing so in front of a room full of people who are right there with him, in the moment, letting the world outside melt away and screaming lyrics at the stage in perfect time.
LTK RATING: 10/10
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