Thursday, August 15, 2013

Danzig 25th Anniversary - August 14, 2013 - Newport Music Hall, Columbus, Ohio

Wednesday evening found me at the Newport Music Hall for the third time in my life and every time I have been at the Newport it has been to see Danzig. First, in 1992 in support of Danzig III and again in April of 1995 on the 4p tour whose December '94 leg also found me watching Danzig at Hara Arena in Dayton. With nearly 20 years eclipsed since my last Danzig live show, the 25th Anniversary performance was a long, long time coming.

Happily, the Newport is a superb venue. A sizable theatre, it has a large stage, generous floor and multiple tiered levels in the rear and along the sides of the venue as well as a huge balcony, allowing for those who do not wish to mosh to still catch a great view of the show. Acoustics are good and volume has always been ample. Others have noted and I second that the lighting effects at the Newport are much better than most venues that host metal acts - as a result the show feels big.

And big it was. This was Danzig. And Doyle. A Silver Anniversary and a Misfits set. Expectations were high and I would be lying if I didn't admit I was a little worried that the man and the band may disappoint. I had to wait through a few openers, though, to find out.

Among all of the acts I have seen over the last few decades, Danzig has always stood out due to his strong choices for openers. '92 saw Kyuss and White Zombie in support. '94 was Godflesh and Type O Negative. '95 was a very young and powerful Korn and Marilyn Manson. I do not know, then, how he found himself saddled with Huntress and Scar the Martyr for this event and truly hope it isn't a reflection of what has otherwise proven to be excellent taste. Huntress are best known for their topless promo shots of frontwoman Jill Janus. Their performance, kicked off with the radio single, "Spell Eater," was a laughable attempt at classic metal theatre in the vein of King Diamond. It's too bad the band doesn't have the songs - or the vocal talent - to pull off the act. Traipsing around with a cape and posing over a fan to set her hair aloft, I ended up feeling sorry for Jill Janus as she announced the Lemmy-penned "I Want to Fuck You to Death." When you ask Lemmy to write a song for you and this is what he returns I kind of figure he may not be giving you his very best and, in fact, you may have missed his message altogether.

Scar the Martyr is apparently a Slipknot side project. Slipknot is not a band I care for but Scar the Martyr is a band I genuinely dislike. I do not know how six guys could collectively create music entirely lacking hooks and heaviness but they somehow succeeded and, in doing so, failed miserably.

Photos were not permitted and security even warned all as we waited outside that a cell phone at shoulder height would be enough to get you ejected. It's a shame because Danzig's set dressing was impressive. Circle of Snakes monoliths flanked an elevated drum riser with additional horned skull statuary behind the amplifiers. A massive classic skull logo banner filled the rear wall and the band's own light rigs provided a nice atmosphere in addition to that provided by the venue. Photos aside, merch was the only other real pain point of the evening. There were several tees from which to choose, the lowest priced at a shocking $40 that exceeded the admission charge. I bought one, of course, but was admittedly disappointed with both the price and lack of inspiration in the designs.

After a long stage turnover, Danzig took the stage at 10:30 to the sound of Glenn's own "Overture of the Rebel Angels." Glenn was, as usual, head to toe, black (as was everyone else) with the massive skull belt buckle and inverted cross necklace in place. The band immediately tore into "Skincarver," an exceptional, powerful track from personal favorite Circle of Snakes. Glenn told the crowd only a couple recent songs would be performed before delving into the backcatalogue and the band launched into Deth Red Sabaoth's "Hammer of the Gods," also a powerhouse that most in attendance seemed to know. It was immediately apparent that a decade or so away from the Columbus area had left local fans hungering. "Twist of Cain," then, set everyone raging and the floor became a moshing, crowd-surfing mass that didn't stop for the rest of the evening.

There's been a lot of fun poked at Danzig forever, really. Be it backstage brush-ups, moody demands to promoters, bricks in his yard or even cat litter shopping, the internet seems to love Glenn Danzig gossip. A lot of it is understandable given that the man has always maintained an intense persona and anything breaking from that image seems game for mockery. Add in jabs that his weight is up and his voice shot and it can make a concertgoer wary. My own experiences at his shows prove some of this out. Seeing two separate shows on both legs of the 4p tour, one was absolutely on fire and the other tepid. At the latter, my last experience with Danzig at the Newport, he seemed disinterested and absolutely disengaged. Same band, same songs, but not the same performance (granted, in that early-internet era none of us knew the band was disintegrating entirely). Wednesday night, though, was an electric Glenn Danzig. Yes, the waist is thicker and the hair thinner but, hell, the man is nearing 60 years old. Despite the years, Glenn was immediately energetic, talkative and interacted with the crowd throughout the whole evening. He seemed as excited to be there as we were and, believe me, that makes a hell of a difference. Glenn's voice was not the consistent boom that I recall from my youth but I chalk this up to equipment, the mix and, yes, age. That said, going back this morning and replaying those American Recordings records, Glenn's voice currently sounds very similar to the 1988 debut. Strong? Yes. As exercised and muscular as the II-III years? No. But the man can still bellow. This was apparent as he launched into "Am I Demon" with a ferocity that made the years melt away.

We all collectively traveled to the past and we stayed there. "Her Black Wings" and "Devil's Plaything" brought the proceedings to a fever pitch before Danzig did a 180 and delivered "Blood and Tears." Any doubt that the man can sing was immediately decimated. Neither volume nor instrumentation stood in the way of one of the better ballads in heavy metal history and Danzig nailed it. A one-two punch of "Dirty Black Summer" and the killer title track from How the Gods Kill rounded out the first set before the Annihilator's grating chords announced the arrival of the beast that was Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein.

I have only seen Doyle onstage once before, during a Graves-era Misfits show on Halloween of 1999. If he was big then he's downright huge now. Doyle was in his classic modern-era Misfits garb with Crimson Skull armbands replaced with his own personal logo. Entirely muscles and menace, Doyle tore into "Death Comes Ripping," segueing almost immediately into "Vampira."By the time the band finished "I Turned Into a Martian" Glenn was grinning for ear to ear and offered the audience a say in the next number. He threw out "London Dungeon" and "We Are 138" as choices but the audience roared in approval at the prospect of "Skulls" and that's what they got. Next, Glenn proposed "Bullet" and "Earth A.D." before the crowd finally went crazy for "Astro Zombies." An audience-led "Last Caress" finished up Doyle's appearance and Danzig concluded their set with a stellar "Soul on Fire" and, of course, "Mother."

The obligatory encore followed with Glenn stating he often allowed the audience to choose the last number but that an autograph-seeking fan had requested "She Rides." Whether this is true or not, it was an effective, unexpected addition and a nice return to the very blues-heavy roots of that eponymous first album. Doyle reappeared for a breakneck "Die, Die My Darling" and the band exited for the evening after a brilliant 90-minute performance. I snapped off a few blurry shots during "Die, Die My Darling" because, at that point, the place was berserk and the worse that could happen would be a 60-second headstart on the rest of the mob.

I have to admit that, despite my devotion to Danzig's entire catalogue, I, like many, really revere those early "classic lineup" recordings. Likewise, the first shows I saw always featured John Christ and Eerie Von (though Joey Castillo was in place for the 4p gigs). The sound was largely spot-on throughout the evening with Steve Zing cementing his own identity as lurching bassist and Tommy Victor maintaining his unique tone and stage presence that served the classics well without coming across as any attempt at a Christ clone. Their few backing vocal harmonies were the only questionable aspect for me as they never quite seemed to match the tone of the music. Type O's Johnny Kelly on drums took me back to that '94 show and, along with the Samhain DNA Zing brings to the table, it almost felt like a celebration not only of the history of Danzig the band but also of the extended family of music touched by this man. It's obvious Glenn was enjoying both his past and present and his visible appreciation for the fans was warming in an era where so many metal acts come off as disaffected. The feeling was mutual last night, the entire room abuzz and enlightened as the lights came up and, heading for the door, it felt like time had never mattered, never even passed. We were right where we needed to be right now.

August 14, 2013 Setlist:
  1. Skincarver
  2. Hammer of the Gods
  3. Twist of Cain
  4. Am I Demon
  5. Her Black Wings
  6. Devil's Plaything
  7. Blood and Tears
  8. Dirty Black Summer
  9. How the Gods Kill
  10. Death Comes Ripping
  11. Vampira
  12. I Turned into a Martian
  13. Skulls
  14. Astro Zombies
  15. Last Caress
  16. Soul on Fire
  17. Mother
  18. Encore
  19. She Rides
  20. Die, Die My Darling


  1. Remember when you said I had a hell of a memory when I reviewed that Iron Maiden concert? I think I can say the same thing right here.

    Really enjoyed this piece because I'd like to see Danzig live one day. You painted a picture for me.

    I've heard that Danzig's "fear" of cameras is quite funny. Well, until the photographer gets a fist in the teeth.

    One of my friends just bought III. I only have the debut, II, and Deth Red Saboath. Time to fix that!

    1. Thanks! If you have an opportunity, it's well worth it to catch Danzig live. III is a must-have but 4p is likely my favorite - you cannot go wrong with any of the American Records releases. Of the later material, I Luciferi and Circle of Snakes are also essential. Thanks again for reading and commenting!