Danzig Legacy New York
Saturday, October 29
Better than: Bobbing for dismembered limbs in a tank of formaldehyde.
On a dreary, slushy Halloween weekend mess, Glenn Danzig, the diabolical mesh-loving doom crooner and heavy metal pioneer, celebrated his career—34 years of ghoulish, Satanic imagery and pounding musical mayhem—at Hammerstein Ballroom. The miserable nature of the night’s weather set an appropriate mood for the performance, a bleak landscape for music equally suited for the raging infernos of the rapture or a sunless, post-apocalyptic ice world. And although most fans preferred to don their normal metal uniforms—black band tees and various leather accoutrements—bloody body parts and gaping bullet wounds or serrated knife slashes, delicately constructed with gobs of viscous theatrical makeup, peeked out from the darkness here and there.
Danzig is a New Jersey native with a lifelong obsession surrounding occult and gore and a long history with the holiday, which made Halloween weekend the right time for the Danzig Legacy Tour’s New York City stop. Each show on the four-city tour is divided into three sets, with each set focusing on one of the main projects in Danzig’s career. Even within the confines of aggressive agita and mystical gloom, Danzig’s music has covered a fairly astonishing range and traveled a noticeable arc. The shambolic, campy glory of The Misfits; the transitional death rock of Samhain; the theatrical, murky metal of his longest running and current band Danzig—each project incorporated parts of the previous as it meticulously unfolded and reached maturity.
While the ambiance was wholly in place, the actual concert did not always oblige. Each set felt abbreviated, seemingly lacking the forethought about pacing and buildup that had been a hallmark of Danzig’s career. The stage setting itself was Spartan, with just a giant backdrop adorned with the hellish logo of each different group swooping down to herald the show’s next segment. The crowd, reverent and enthusiastic throughout, nonetheless felt stagnant at times, and Glenn chided people for their fatigue. “If I’m not tired, you’re not allowed to be tired,” he growled.
Musically, the performances were too often uniform. The limitations of using one backing band, without a heap of varied instrumentation and effects, undermined the rich tonal and textural variation between each project. The Danzig set sounded a bit too similar to the Samhain one; the former lacked much of its bluesy wholesomeness and tortured emotions, and the latter seemed to be missing some its raw hostility. The sound was pure modern arena-metal for the most part, not at all based in the refinement and sonic dutifulness Danzig the artist had always seemed to espouse.
Danzig’s energy was explicit, though, and the songs he selected were classical representations of his range, even if they didn’t always sound how they might have originally. During Danzig’s (the band) set, there was the rocketing, anthemic sludge of “Her Black Wings,” the epic, dark beauty and squalling guitars of “How The Gods Kill,” and the monstrous riffs of “Twist of Cain.” The Samhain performance saw Danzig run out on stage wearing his trademark leather face mask. Although the set took the longest of the three to get going, it started roaring with the “Let the Day Begin,” a singalong bruiser with the lingering punk mentality that categorized the early Samhain work. “To Walk the Night” was throbbing and punctuated, even if it lacked the warm group harmonies and the direct soar of Danzig’s voice on the original recording.
The outrageousness of the Misfits’ set was an uplifting, brutal change of pace. Ex-Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein joined Danzig and beefed up the sound with his breakneck playing, and the two interacted much more than Danzig had with the rest of his band throughout the whole night. By the time the set ended, with the horrific imagery and bouncy Buzzcocks-meet-Motown swing of “Last Caress,” Danzig’s howl finally seemed ascendant amidst the thickness of the music around him. As he completely switched gears and finished off in an operatic thunder with an encore of some of his most beloved Danzig (the band) material, including “Mother,” he had authoritatively cemented his legacy as one of Satan’s most eloquent, nuanced minions.
Critical bias: In general, aging metal dudes give me the creeps.
Overheard: “I’m so far away from my probation officer now, I can do whatever I want.”
Random notebook dump: Glenn should be an adjunct professor at the School of Rock, teaching a class in punk posturing with an emphasis on strategic and creative microphone hand placement.
Overture of The Rebel Angels
Hammer of the Gods
Twist of Cain
Her Black Wings
How the Gods Kill
Dirty Black Summer
Its Coming Down
All Murder, All Guts, All Fun
Let the Day Begin
To Walk the Night
Mother of Mercy
Death Comes Ripping
I turned Into A Martian
Night of the Living Dead
Bringer of Death
Not of This World