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Halfway through another night’s dispiriting performance along the road to ruin and irrelevance, Glenn Danzig suddenly shook off 20 years of bloat and flashed a tantalizing glimpse of an old self he’d sworn never to revisit. By the time Danzig brought his latest solo band to the Roxy last week, it was an open secret that he’d invited along Misfits guitarist Doyle Von Frankenstein as a "special guest" and that a half-hour set of Misfits songs was in the offing (something Danzig’s done exactly once since disbanding the group back in 1983, though after a lengthy court battle bassist Jerry Only re-formed the band without him for a couple of shady albums and several embarrassing "reunion" tours). But you had to wonder whether it’d be any good, especially as Danzig baited the audience through a 40-minute set of recent solo material in a voice that, unlike the nuanced, bell-toned instrument that made him metal’s Sinatra back in the late ’80s, has been reduced to a pulpy bark and an Ethel Merman–ish glottal glob.

All of which was forgiven five seconds into a Misfits set that came without fanfare. "Doyle?" he called, and out the guitarist came: shirtless, tall, muscular, with a greasy black devilock hanging to his navel. (He looks exactly like his action figure.) In solo mode, Danzig had looked like Meatloaf in too-small biker gear, but now he crouched at the lip of the stage, coiled and glaring. With the guitars a feverishly downstroked blur, and the backbeat an odd, sped-up circus march, the group lit into "20 Eyes" and then "Skulls" as the kids went berserk, turning the Roxy into an uncanny approximation of the Channel 22 years ago.

Happily stunned, even I sang along like an idiot. For a few songs, at least, the years seemed to fall away from Danzig’s pipes, and he was Satan’s favorite doo-wop singer again. "Back in ’83 this town ripped shit up," he acknowledged as he counted off "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?", which segued into their era-defining hardcore classics "Earth A.D." and "Hatebreeders." On "Die, Die, My Darling" ("the one Metallica butchered to shit," he noted) and a rabid "We Are 138," they were a beautiful mess — cues missed, lyrics scrambled — but it wasn’t a drag, since that’s exactly how the Misfits sounded two decades ago. Heedless of calls for more Misfits, Danzig encored with his two finest solo songs — "Twist of Cain" and "Mother" — and walked off, perhaps for the last time here, with the air of a long-beaten heavyweight who’d surprised himself by connecting with one final, unexpected knockout punch.


Issue Date: March 11 - 17, 2005
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