Danzig at House of Blues gets a big wet kiss


“You motherfuckers are almost as crazy as I am!” Glenn Danzig is high-fiving fans in the front row, midway through Monday night’s set, and for a second, it is hard for this notoriously reticent performer to hide a huge beaming smile. After a five-year break from playing live, it’s clear that Danzig and Co. are relishing being back face-to-face with their adoring fans.

Let’s get the negatives of the show out of the way first: Danzig is no longer the young bantamweight of the 80’s and 90’s, and he starting to show signs that he is a man in his mid-50’s, what with the emerging paunch and bald spot, cracks in the facade of this hitherto ageless rock icon. And there are some who, I’m sure, are waiting for Danzig to give up the heavy metal, get a crew cut, stop dying his hair, and start doing acoustic tours so his whole schtick will begin to be more age-appropriate. It certainly doesn’t help that, as time marches on, Danzig (the band)’s 80’s based cock rock begins to seem more and more anachronistic, especially in a live setting with guitarist Tommy Victor’s absolutely merciless use of Zakk Wylde-esque string unison pick squeals, an irritating affect that he lays on thick in almost every second of every song.

But you know what? Fuck all that. Danzig’s entire career has been about sticking it to people who have attempted to impose their expectations upon him, and after tonight’s performance it seems clear that the man will probably be headbanging in a skintight mesh shirt until he needs a wheelchair. The set was a fan’s dream list, with hits like “Twist of Cain” and “Her Black Wings” being chucked out early-- a drastic contrast to the last time he rolled through town five years ago, only playing then-new material that was largely unfamiliar to the audience. It also helps that this Danzig tour is supporting the new Deth Red Sabaoth, easily the band’s strongest album in a decade.

The same way that Dio invented the devil horn sign and Ozzy invented mindless headbanging, Danzig popularized “whoa” as a choral element in heavy music. And more than the dark imagery and pounding riffs, what fans come for when they see Danzig is to join in those huge “whoa”s with the man himself. Rock history will eventually put the man’s basso profundo voice up there with Hendrix’s guitar and Elvis’ hips, and tonight’s show soared every time Danzig hit each song’s “whoa” moment. Of particular note was the light-and-shade run through of “How The Gods Kill”: a tranquil start saw Danzig sensitively “whoa”ing, only to open the floodgates once the song ripped into full force.

For his fans, it essentially comes down to this: Danzig is not a man who is able to hide his displeasure, which makes the joy he exudes during a great show like tonight’s that much more meaningful and special to an audience. A bad show of his is bad, but a good show is great, as it is a reflection not just of the man’s mood but of his communion with his fans, and that communion is broadcast via wordless chants that transcend genre and ultimately celebrate music in a relatively pure form.

As the first encore ended with a run-through of “Mother”, an overly excitable fan found his way on stage and, inexplicably, planted a kiss on Danzig’s cheek right at the end of the tune. And while at the moment, Danzig’s irritation at this violation of his personal space was evident, I’m sure deep down he understands that when your music connects with fans on such a primal level, such random outbursts of adulation are a necessary consequence. For a man who, just a short while before, had run through a song called “Tired of Being Alive”, it was marvelous to see Danzig perform as someone who was anything but.
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