The Civic Theater in downtown New Orleans has canceled a Lundi Gras concert featuring homegrown hard rock band Down in the wake of a controversy involving vocalist Phil Anselmo.
On Jan. 22 at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood, California, Anselmo was featured at “Dimebash 2016,” an all-star heavy-metal tribute to the late “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, the guitarist in Anselmo’s former band Pantera. Following a performance of the Pantera song “Walk,” Anselmo reportedly shouted, “White power!” and made a Nazi-style salute while exiting the stage.
A storm of criticism has since been directed his way, including from fellow musicians.
Anselmo recently posted both a video and a written apology on his website. His apology read in part, “I’m repulsed by my own actions, and the self-loathing I’m going through right now is justified by the hurt I’ve caused.”
But that wasn’t good enough for the management of the Civic, which pulled the plug on the show scheduled for the night before Mardi Gras. A statement released by the Civic announcing the cancellation said, “We do not tolerate intolerant behavior, and there is no room for that in our venue or our city. …
“In addition to offering full refunds for all ticket purchases, the Civic has made a donation to the Jewish Federation of New Orleans, pledging our support for a united community.”
The Civic’s statement concluded with a quote from reggae legend Bob Marley: “Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together — black, white, Chinese, everyone — that’s all.”
No stranger to controversy, Anselmo achieved arena-level success with Pantera. Even before that band’s dissolution — exacerbated in part by statements Anselmo made about his bandmates — the singer was involved in various other projects with members of the New Orleans hard rock community.
Of those projects, Down has been the most successful, releasing several albums, touring with Metallica and appearing at metal festivals worldwide.
During the “Dimebash” event, Anselmo bellowed the Motorhead anthem “Ace of Spades” in tribute to that band’s recently deceased frontman, Lemmy Kilmister. Backing Anselmo on “Ace of Spades” were Dave Grohl, of the Foo Fighters, and bassist Robert Trujillo, of Metallica.
In the wake of this latest controversy, Anselmo’s future with Down is uncertain. In addition to the canceled show at the Civic, promoters of the FortaRock festival in the Netherlands have scratched Down from the bill, RollingStone.com reported.
In the lengthy statement posted on his website, Anselmo, a longtime resident of the north shore, said he has suggested to the other members of Down that they “move on” without him:
“Every citizen in this entire world has the unalienable right to live with dignity and respect without hate or oppression. And I mean this, with all of my crushed, yet guilty, heart. It’s common knowledge that we can choose to either learn from our mistakes, or continue on a path of insensitivity and destruction.
“I am utterly responsible for the mistakes I have made, and can only give you my word to no longer do them in the present, through action, not just mere words. My bandmates are now experiencing the consequences of my behavior, and I now publicly apologize to them as well. Never in my entire lifetime would I drag them down with me, and I’ve privately suggested to them that they move on without me.”
His statement continued, “My biggest obstacles are the over-indulging in the booze and blurting out spiteful, ignorant reductions of the human spirit itself. I will address these issues, head-on.”
Down guitarist Pepper Keenan posted a response to the controversy on his Facebook page. It read in part, “I am saddened and confused by the behavior of Philip Anselmo last week. I do not condone what was gestured and said. This lapse in judgment of ‘making a joke’ was in terribly poor taste and unacceptable.”
Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.