You may be wondering how a self-professed giant fan of Glenn Danzig could sit on writing a review for perhaps the greatest show a Danzig fan could ever hope to attend for a week. Well, thank mother nature for that one for knocking out my power for 5 days immediately following the show. Do you think 5 days in the cold (and horrendous traffic on interstate 91) could dampen my thoughts on this show? If you said “Hell no,” then you’d be right.
Last Saturday my best friend and I attended this monumental show. From the moment the Danzig Legacy show for Chicago was announced I was torn. This was a show I had to attend but could I really justify the cost in flying out to Chicago to catch it? Compound that with the fact that likely no one I know would be willing to do the same made it a tough proposition. Thankfully, shortly there-after two additional dates were added and one included New York City. Now that I could handle easily as my best friend just so happens to live in the city so I’d have a place to crash and a bud for the show. It’s what most people would refer to as a no-brainer.
I talked about the actual show in a previous post, so I’ll spare you the specifics here. All you need to know is that this was designed to be a career spanning set list for Mr. Danzig. The majority of it would focus on the current band, Danzig, but there was also a set for the goth-punk outfit Samhain and the legendary Misfits. It would have been cool to see more emphasis on the reunion aspect. The current Danzig line-up of Tommy Victor, Steve Zing, and Johnny Kelly was used for both the Danzig portion and the Misfits portion. Kelly was switched out in favor of former Samhain drummer London May for that portion of the show. For the Initium and Unholy Passion songs, bassist and original Samhain drummer Steve Zing would return to his position behind the kit with May handling bass duties. When the set list got to the November-Coming-Fire portion, May would switch with Zing and handle the drumming for the tracks he originally sat-in on. And for the Misfits set, former axe-man Doyle would join the Danzig band and pound his way through the classic tracks. Musically, Doyle adds little to the songs but his commanding stage presence and over the top persona really add to the energy of the show. It would have been awesome if more guys could have attended, but Glenn Danzig isn’t really known for keeping in touch with his old band mates. Misfits bassist Jerry Only would have been out of the questions, and to be honest, it really wouldn’t have done anything for me to see him there. I would have loved to see original Samhain and Danzig bassist Eerie Von though, and I consider it a real shame he and Glenn had a falling out after he left Danzig as they were friends for years. If original Danzig guitarist John Christ had popped in for a track or two that would have been pretty awesome as well, but he and Glenn were never really the best of friends so it’s understandable. Damien is someone I thought had a chance of picking up the old axe and stepping onto the stage with Samhain, but he was either busy, never asked to join, or just didn’t want to.
Regardless, seeing the guys who were there perform songs I never expected to ever see performed was something special. The venue, the Hammerstein Ballroom, is a nice open area with tiered balconies that accommodated the largest crowd I’ve ever seen for a Danzig show. I was seated in the first balcony section and had a great view of the floor and the stage. The section was packed, and the people on the floor were jammed in tight. I don’t know if the second balcony was completely full but there were quite a few people that I could see from my limited vantage point. Security really wasn’t busting anyone’s balls for taking pictures, a rarity at a Danzig show, though stage hands were using laser pointers to point out people obviously boot-legging the show. I took a couple shots with my iphone, but they didn’t come out great (iphone’s really suck when zoom is used) so I won’t bother to upload any for this post. Some great videos did make it to youtube though, for those interested.
The set list was the same as the one from Chicago that I posted earlier. It was great to hear “Overture of the Rebel Angels” back where it belongs, though I would have preferred something other than “Skin Carver” to kick off the show. Even though I’m not particularly fond of the song, it did do the job and the crowd was really into it shouting the chorus back at Glenn. Glenn looked to be in great shape for the event. Noticeably slimmer than usual, he jumped around the stage like a man half his age. His voice, while not quite the same as it was in the 90’s, was strong and the levels were great as I didn’t notice any one instrument over-powering the others. Steve Zing was a great addition to the live band a couple years ago, and his bass-playing is more than capable. He adds enthusiasm and isn’t afraid to get close with the crowd. Johnny Kelly’s drumming is awesome, and I think that’s an opinion most people share. Tommy Victor has been the most maligned member of the band, as his style is different from previous Danzig guitarists so his solos differ as well. I never particularly care how a guitarist plays the solos live, as long as they’re still good. To that end, I have no problem with Tommy. Is he my favorite Danzig guitarist? No, but he doesn’t harm the product.
Overall, the set list for the first Danzig section was pretty awesome. After “Skin Carver” and a couple cuts from the new record, it switches back to “Twist of Cain” and moves in a chronological order for the remainder of the set. The usual favorites are played, with the exception of “Devil’s Plaything,” my all-time favorite Danzig track which rarely gets played. I personally had only seen the band do it once on the 20th anniversary tour in ’08, for this one they go right into the song following “Her Black Wings” omitting the intro. I was some-what disappointed by this, but it was cool to hear the crowd kind of surprised when the riff kicked in and it still proved to be the highlight of the Danzig set for me. After “It’s Coming Down,” the band disappeared to the back and the Danzig back-drop was lowered, replaced by a giant image of the November-Coming-Fire back-drop and soon “Initium” could be heard coming from the speakers.
After the intro finished, the band burst onto the stage to the familiar sounds of “Samhain” leading the way. Glenn returned to stage sporting the dog mask he wore for the final Samhain performance back in 1987. The band ripped through the song and others from their debut album and the crowd seemed into it, though perhaps not as into it as they were the Danzig stuff. This wasn’t that big of a surprise to me as Samhain has always been the Glenn Danzig band to get the least amount of attention. There was a point in my life where I didn’t even know a band had existed for Glenn in between The Misfits and Danzig. The crowd certainly was into the Misfits cover, “Horror Biz,” but once things kind of slowed down with “Unholy Passion” the crowd energy kind of dyed down. That’s too bad, as “Let the Day Begin” followed which has always been my favorite Samhain song, though I have to admit, it sounded a little off live. I’m not really sure what it was, but it kind of lacked intensity. “To Walk the Night” was awesome though, as was “Mother of Mercy” but by that point the crowd had almost completely checked out. I tried not to let it bother me, but it did. Ingrates!
After the Samhain set, the band once again vanished to the back and a new Misfits backdrop replaced the Samhain one. This made the crowd go crazy as an instrumental track took over featuring generic haunted house noises and a howling wolf. It seemed like the wait was longer than the change-over to the Samhain stuff, but eventually some distorted guitar tones filled the air as Doyle marched onto the stage to a huge ovation. The rest of the band soon followed and the air in the venue was charged! Glenn provoked the audience with an “Are you ready?!” before the band blasted-off into “Death Comes Ripping.”
The floor was turned into a sea of bodies, feet, arms, and torsos flying every which way as the band bludgeoned our eardrums. This is how I wished the crowd had been the whole night! Every line of every song was being screamed back at Glenn as they tore through the old classics. There would be a pause between most songs as Doyle would change guitars (presumably due to broken strings more than tuning issues) but the crowd seemed to enjoy the brief respite. Every song seemed to get the same ovation, which is to say a huge one. For me, the high-light was definitely “Last Caress” which closed out the set. I have always wanted to hear that song live ever since I was a kid in middle school, and to finally hear it was practically overwhelming.
When the set ended, the band once again vanished backstage and the Danzig backdrop was raised once more. When the band returned to the sound of machine gun fire it tore into “Bringer of Death.” Even though that’s a song that would normally elicit a big response from the floor, the crowd seemed like it was tapped out. Sure the pit got moving a bit when the situation arose, but it was nothing like it had been during the earlier stages of the show, and certainly not even close to what it was for the Misfits stuff. Little changed for the next two tracks, as the band went back to the debut album for “Not of This World” and required closer “Mother.” It was all too obvious why most people showed up, and that was to see Glenn and Doyle do the Misfits stuff. Expected, but it still kind of bummed me out to not see people go nuts for the other classics. In my section, hardly anyone even left their seat all night. I have never been to a show where people actually remain seated. It was bizarre. My friend and I tried to stand during the first part of the show, but people behind us complained. So long as the people in front of us remained seated (they had stood up for the first part of the show too, they’re true fans, but had sat down once the first set ended) we would do so as well so as not to incite the ire of those behind us, but damn if I didn’t feel like an old loser for sitting at a metal/punk show.
After the conclusion of “Mother,” the band did the usual pre-encore stuff and said its goodbyes. The stage hands then set to work on getting the crowd to call the boys back on stage but the crowd was mostly quiet. Talk about frustrating. A chant would go up for “Danzig!” here and there but die quickly. Maybe the crowd didn’t know what to chant for, since it obviously wanted some more Misfits tunes, but it was still kind of embarrassing. Even though the response was lackluster at times, Glenn never let it bother him. He was in a pretty good mood all night. I guess he knew what the people wanted and was fine with it. That was a change from when I saw Danzig and Doyle together in Boston in 2005, where the crowd was dead all night save for when Doyle was on stage. This enraged Danzig to the point that he didn’t even do an encore. That was also my buddy’s first Danzig show, and it always bothered me it ended that way. He was concerned this time around when the crowd was so lackluster before the encore that it would happen again. Thankfully, the band did re-emerge on stage with Doyle once more leading the way. The band ripped into “Skulls” and the place once again went nuts. When it was over though, it was over for good. Glenn thanked us and gave his usual “Take care,” before vanishing into the snowy evening.
When it was over it was like my body crashed. I had been waiting and looking forward to this show for so long and for it to be over was kind of a drag. Still, I had the time of my life and even though the crowd let me down at times it was still the best Danzig show I’ve ever attended. Just to see the band in top form hitting on the majority of my favorite songs spanning over 30 years of material was unreal. I never, ever, expected to see Glenn Danzig do a show like this even in my wildest dreams. He’s always been against this type of thing but I think his attitude over the years has mellowed quite a bit. He had also frequently said the Samhain thing would never happen again after doing a semi-reunion in 1999, a tour that never came close to me, so I felt particularly lucky to catch it this time. He seems to take delight in doing the old Misfits songs with Doyle, so much so that it’s surprising he doesn’t do it more. The band as a whole really feeds off the crowd when it goes nuts for those old tunes and I imagine the view from the stage is something out of this world.
Glenn Danzig isn’t getting any younger so it’s tough to say how many shows are in the future. Since he resides in the LA area, I suspect there will always be shows going on out there to some degree, particularly around Halloween. For those of us in other parts of the country though, there’s the possibility that this could be it. While I don’t feel that is the case, it was in the back of my mind last Saturday that this could be the last Danzig show I attend. I’d like to think that when such a time comes he’ll let everyone know with a farewell tour, but it also wouldn’t shock me to see him just disappear quietly. If this was the last Danzig show I’m able to attend, then that was one Hell of a way to go out. Bravo, boys!