Voivod review by Sean Palmerston, Down review and photos by Adam Wills
Before I start things off, I do want to mention that while I do work with Voivod at my dayjob (we released their latest Infini album in Canada) they have been one of my top five favourite bands for nearly twenty years so when Adam mentioned he thought I should review their set from the perspective of a longtime fan I agreed to do so. If that’s too close for comfort for you, feel free to skip down to Adam’s portion of the review a few paragraphs down. Just leave knowing that this longtime fan was absolutely delighted with their set on Friday night.
Kicking off just a hair after 9PM with the both Snake and Blacky screaming “Voivod!” the quartet quickly ripped into their unofficial theme song and set the stage for the next forty minutes. It had been more than fifteen months since the last time I had a chance to see them live, having had the opportunity to see their return to the stage at 2008’s Heavy Mtl festival last June, and the thing that really struck me this time out was the ferocity that the band is now able to achieve. Of course the band has been busy touring, playing almost every major European metal festival this summer as well as a Western Canadian swing with Down in August and a short Mexican tour with Testament in early September. This Toronto show was both their final show with Down and also their last show of a very busy summer and the band’s onstage presence reeked of an act that’s had a full summer of solid festival shows to tighten up their chops.
The show was their first Toronto date with original bassist Blacky back in the band and Voivod stuck almost entirely to songs taken from the first era of the band. It wouldn’t be a Voivod show without songs like “The Prow.” “Tribal Convictions” and “Ravenous Medicine,” all of which went down well with the audience. The only new song of the set, “Global Warning,” proved to be an excellent choice, coming across much heavier live than on Infini. Of course, the biggest cheer of the night happened when Snake invited his pal Phil to come up and sing a song. We all know the Phil in question was Mr. Anselmo, who joined the band onstage for “Nothingface” and stayed sitting on a monitor for the set-ending cover of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine” which also found Pepper Keenan and Jimmy Bower peeking out from behind the amps in obviously apparent delight. This was a great set by the Montreal based band, one that found them more comfortable in their own skin and with guitarist Dan Mongrain clearly displaying why he is the only proper choice as current guitarist. No one could ever replace our dearly departed Piggy, may he rest in peace, but Mongrain does him proud, playing his riffs with class, passion and precision. I really hope this won’t be my last time seeing Voivod, but if it is I’ll always remember it as another high point.
With considerably less than a packed house at The Kool Haus, Down took no notice, and put on one hell of a show for the rabid Down fans that were in attendance. Despite the small mountain of contraband booze (among other substances) that piled up outside the entrance, the crowd were treeated to a set list that would make any long time fan of the band drool, including a wide range of songs from their 1995 debut scattered with selections from their two more recent albums.
Opening with “Lysergik Funeral Procession”, the still mighty Phil Anselmo wasted no time in taking command of the stage, while Kirk Windstein and Pepper Keenan came out with guitars blazing. The momentum only gained with “New Orleans is a Dying Whore” and “Lifer” (dedicated to eternal brother, Dimebag Darrell). Things slowed slightly with “The Path” and “Ghosts Along the Mississippi”, only to be cranked right back up with long time favourite “Losing All”.
Filling in for the absent Rex Brown on bass duties was “The Magic Frog”, Danny Theriot, who used to be in a band with Windstein back in the 80’s. He was a solid replacement, missing only the silly faces that we’ve been accustomed to seeing from Brown over the years. The NOLA based five-some kept up the momentum with “Hail the Leaf” and “N.O.D”, before opening up a small jam session with Windstein and Keenan, which swiftly turned into the amazing “Eyes of the South”. Closing out the first set was the best song from their last two albums, “Nothing In Return”, which was sorely missing from the band’s last visit to Canadian soil. If you’re blown away by the version on the album, as I was, you must witness it live – absolutely brilliant.
With the standard encore, came another rarely played gem, in “Pillars of Eternity”, followed by the mandatory “Stone the Crow”, and “Bury Me In Smoke”, which still remains the heaviest song I have ever heard live. With the usual live extended version of the HUGE outro riff, the Canadian crowd was treated to something special. As Phil called out for Voivod, the Quebecers soon took over the stage, jamming out the rest of the song, switching between the original riff, and a much modified Voivod version.
As the stage cleared, Anselmo, who is looking better than ever at a ripe 41 years old, took the mic one last time, with his usual tribute to Led Zeppelin, belting out a couple lines along with the crowd from “Whole Lotta Love”, and “Stairway…” before the stage faded to black. Another date complete, another audience blown away.