The first time I went out to see Danzig, over a decade ago, as a teenager in Pittsburgh, the concert was inexplicably canceled minutes before showtime, and I returned to my '89 Pontiac Sunbird to find it towed. Last night in Boulder, I feared a 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 on stage just after 10 p.m. (flanked by Spinal Tap-worthy statues of giant skull-octopi), then proceeded to rip an expensive camera out of a concert-goer's hand mid-song before handing it to a roadie.
The former Misfits frontman has been known to walk into record stores and snatch up 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 in his fifties, Danzig looks fine for his age -- but at least the guy sticks to his convictions.
Musically, Danzig's Boulder Theater performance was surprisingly impressive, considering the absence 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 easily won over the crowd, many clad in just-purchased $35 T-shirts.
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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.
What's more, 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 E-Town would make for an incredibly interesting evening together.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: It was a fun show, but in reality, watching Danzig perform forceful favorites he wrote and recorded two decades 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 three decades 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 backup players, who don matching black wife-beaters and jet-black manes of shoulder-length hair, look like they'd be equally comfortable giving the devil sign to audiences of weightlifter 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 disgruntled member of the North Side Kings 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 this video are all kinds of awesome.