It seemed somehow appropriate that a crowd had gathered for a Danzig show on what Edward Bulwer-Lytton once called "a dark and stormy night." As the winds howled and raged and rain pounded upon gathered concertgoers awaiting admittance, those inside were greeted by the cloaked vestiges of Danzig's staging.
The evening's pace car was southern California-based 2Cents, who came armed with heavy songs and a healthy bravado. Similar to fellow Californians Bad Acid Trip, 2Cents hit the stage with the attitude that they already owned it, and then demanded that the audience catch up. Underneath all the staged machismo was a capable performance which the audience readily gave in to, chanting the appropriate curses during "Get What?" Through a mix of insults, cajoles and insinuations, 2Cents held onto the crowd's attention and prepared them for the evening to come.
It's not really a secret that I am not the biggest fan of Devildriver. Yet, their performance from this night, not only carrying the energy of the crowd, but amplifying it two and three times over, is to be commended. Fresh on the heels of last year's "Pray for Villians," the band is back on the road with their new release "Beast." Bassist Jon Miller was replaced on this night by Aaron Patrick from Bury Your Dead, who did a more than capable job of filling that void with his ample enthusiasm. Dez and the boys ripped through a playlist of hits and crowd favorites, ranging from the throaty "Meet the Wretched," to new explosive cut "Dead to Rights." The set's biggest highlight was "Clouds Over California," which whipped the crowd into a frenzy on the basis of drummer John Boecklin's beat alone.
Finally, the cloaks came down, and the iconic, unmistakable visage of the Danzig Skull was seen on stage. The skull itself is not only a symbol of menace, but a symbol of Danzig's immutable legacy. I had heard from some reputable sources that Danzig's legacy was just about all he had left. They warned me that his best days were over. Still, if Danzig's career was in its twilight, I wanted to be there to see it myself. I owed that to the man.
Turns out, Danzig is not done. While it is an inescapable truth that his trademark voice is not as perfectly powerful as it used to be, what one discovers when watching Danzig perform is that he is tremendously adept at picking his spots. While the singular frontman was content to let the crowd do most of the heavy lifting for set-finisher and must-play single "Mother," he brought the full bellow to bear for "Black Angel, White Angel."
The other thing that became readily evident during the show was that Danzig understands what the people are there to see. With the exception of covered-by-Johnny-Cash "Thirteen," there was no evidence in the set that Danzig released any albums between 1992's "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill," and 2004's "Circle of Snakes." The early works of Danzig were on full display, with a vocally unbalanced but still affecting "Twist of Cain," and a pummeling "Do You Wear the Mark." (It's parenthetically worth noting that the crowd was amenable to but less excited for Danzig's new material, the high being "Deth Red Moon," and the low being the questionable "Ju Ju Bone.")
Danzig's band is the best it's been in years, flooded with New York metal veterans Johnny Kelly on drums and Tommy Victor on guitar. As Victor ripped through the impossibly catchy riffs of former Danzig player John Christ, the singer himself seemed to feed off the energy, allowing his surrounding musicians to empower him for the length of the set.
As the encore began with the bluesy "She Rides," and careened into fan-voted "Tired of Being Alive" and "Long Way Back from Hell," it was obvious than when he wants to, Danzig still has complete command of his music and his aura. This is a worthwhile show that is a celebration of the halcyon days of both Danzig's solo career and blues-based metal. See it if you can.