Glenn Danzig’s fame has never waned. But in today’s constantly connected world he’s stayed famous for the wrong reasons: getting very publicly knocked out after a backstage argument in 2004; suing his former bandmates and buying cat litter at the wrong place. It’s easy to forget why people cared in the first place: Danzig wrote some of the best songs the American underground has produced, songs that have influenced generations of metal and punk bands. Take away the poorly timed pictures and Internet memes and Evil Elvis would still loom large. And, he’s never become a flat out joke like one time bandmate Jerry Only and the circus version of The Misfits, even if his explanation of the famous knockout strains credulity.
Danzig has dusted off his old Samhain material for a series of seven exclusive shows this fall. You can’t call it a full on reunion without bassist Eerie Von, even if Baroness guitarist Peter Adams faithfully recreated Samhain’s sound along with original members London May and Steve Zing. But the evening offered a chance for Danzig to show off his sometimes overlooked middle period and remind us why his music matters. Danzig’s work with The Misfits and as a solo artist gets more attention but the Samhain songs are among his best, pairing a Goth sensibility with punk and metal long before it was fashionable and popularized by bands like Decibel cover stars In Solitude.
Samhain stood in front of a glowing orange backdrop of the November Coming Fire cover and spent 80 minutes playing most of of their too short catalog. The evening started with the entire Initium album, Samhain’s first and most beloved record. Slower songs like “The Shift” sounded best; blusier material can be presented more authentically by someone pushing 60 than rippers like “He Who Cannot Be Named.” The highlight was “Archangel,” a song Danzig wrote with Damned crooner Dave Vanian in mind. Danzig played guitar to give the song extra heft and his vocals were especially soulful.
The second part of the evening showcased material from November Coming Fire, including the first ever live rendition of “Kiss Of Steel” and a rousing encore of “Halloween II.” The exclusion of “In My Grip” was an oversight — it’s one of Samhain’s best songs — but otherwise the set was perfectly arranged.
Danzig has said this is the last time Samhain will ever play although musicians are known to backtrack, especially if money is involved. If it’s indeed the end take what could be your final chance to hear a collection of timeless songs.
Samhain 30 San Francisco Set List:
Initium / Samhain
All Murder, All Guts, All Fun
Intermission (Misery Tomb)
I Am Misery
To Walk the Night
Kiss of Steel
Let The Day Begin
Mother of Mercy
(Encore) Halloween II
Samhain 30 remaining dates:
October 26 – Austin, Housecore Horrofest
October 29 – Philadelphia, Electric Factory
October 31 – Washington D.C., Howard Theatre
November 1 – New York City, Best Buy Theatre