REVIEW: Danzig at the Boulder Theater

photos by Dane Cronin

Boulder Theater
Saturday May 3, 2011
by Adam Perry for Westword

Better Than: Watching Jerry Only, bassist for the original Misfits—the seminal punk band fronted by Glenn Danzig, who wrote all their songs—trudge through laser-quick versions of Danzig’s classic songs while dressed like a professional wrestler. Sadly that’s what’s passed for “The Misfits” for many years.

The first time I went out to see Danzig, over a decade ago as a teenager in the Pittsburgh, Pa., of my youth, the concert was inexplicably canceled minutes before show time and I returned to my ’89 Pontiac Sunbird to find it towed. Last night in Boulder, I feared some similar fate would follow me to Colorado, but, when doom appeared in the form of a dead camera battery, local photographer Dane Cronin tapped on my shoulder just before the Satanic cacophony began and offered to use my much-coveted photo pass to provide professional-quality pictures of his own. And he even bought me a beer.

Cronin proved talented, altruistic, and even courageous, as Danzig appeared onstage just after 10pm at the Boulder Theater—flanked by Spinal Tap-worthy statues of giant skull-octopi—and literally ripped an expensive camera out of a concertgoer’s hand mid-song before handing it to a roadie. The former Misfits frontman has been known to walk into record stores and snatch bootleg recordings of the Misfits and Danzig, but Tuesday night was the first time I’ve seen him, or any other artist, prowl the crowd for cameras. It’s hard to see the point—a true metal legend, Danzig looks fine for his age (55)—but at least the guy sticks to his convictions.

Musically, Danzig’s Boulder Theater performance was surprisingly impressive, considering the departure of Danzig’s bandmates from the group’s heyday (1987-1994). After a few incomprehensible newer songs that found the audience excited to see its longtime hero but puzzled by unexceptional and unfamiliar music and lyrics, Danzig plunged deep into his treasure chest of darkly themed classics and won the crowd, many dressed in just-purchased $35 t-shirts, over easily. With the muscle-bound vocalist’s booming, vengeful voice mostly intact, “Twist of Cain” and “Her Black Wings” energized the whole building, inspiring Danzig to repeatedly give the Boulder faithful a chance to sing into his microphone, and “How the Gods Kill” provided a reminder of just how powerful and enjoyable heavy music can be.

There’s a reason Danzig—who still sports long black hair, a massive skull and horns belt buckle and a skin-tight muscle t-shirt—influenced just about every relevant heavy American band from the mid-‘80s on, from Metallica to Korn. His huge voice, equal parts Elvis and Mephistopheles, is inimitable and startlingly compelling, even today, 35 years after his debut with the Misfits and 24 years after Danzig’s eponymous debut. And his best lyrics, from the psychosexual horror of “Bullet” to the somehow soulful murder-obsessed rage of “Long Way Back From Hell,” pique the primitive American intellect just enough to remain a guilty pleasure for decades after teenhood. At least for myself and the few hundred other headbangers surrounding me last night at a venue where considerably mellower acts, such as Jolie Holland, Nick Lowe and Broken Social Scene, have treated me to some magical performances in the recent past, it was metal heaven for a while. And man, Danzig and eTown would make for an incredibly interesting evening together.


Personal Bias: It was a fun show, but in reality watching Danzig perform forceful favorites he wrote and recorded 20-25 years ago is only marginally more significant than seeing one original member of the Misfits—Jerry Only—pounce on a bunch of songs he played bass on 30-35 years ago. But I was in the Boulder Theater bathroom when Danzig broke into “Mother,” the group’s 1993 MTV hit, so maybe I missed the high moment of the evening.

Random Detail: Danzig’s current backing band, which dons matching black wife-beaters and jet-black manes of shoulder-length hair, looks like it’d be equally comfortable giving the devil sign to audiences of weight-lifter automobile enthusiasts and excelling behind the counter at a pizza parlor at the gates in Hell.

By The Way: It’s unfortunate that Danzig, a New Jersey native and comic book enthusiast who reportedly turned down a chance to play Wolverine in the X-Men movie series, may end up being best remembered not for his impressive recorded works but for amateur footage of him getting knocked out by a rival band a few years ago, which ended up on YouTube and has been viewed a million times. I mean, Johnny Cash even recorded one of his songs, for God’s sake. Either way, both his classic music and the video below are all kinds of awesome.

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