Danzig - Live in Atlantic City (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Live in Atlantic City (2023)

live show

That distinct, metal meets blues meets horror movie tone, rumbled across the packed Ovation theatre in Atlantic City, on September 9, 2023. Even though it was just a single chord strike- not even a riff- just a solitary, hanging, twist of a note, you knew the song in the first half second: “Twist of Cain.” And with that single strike, the audience did go kind of crazy. It was a salvo that signified, well something momentous.

The seminal Danzig 1 had just hit 35 years and the Danzig band, for the first time ever, was playing the album in full. (On the original Danzig 1 tour, they actually played a collection of Danzig, Samhain, and Misfits tunes). On top of that, Glenn Danzig said that these shows would be the last Danzig shows “for the foreseeable future.” He’s made that statement before, but how many times can you slap the hands of fate? And on top of that, whereas seeing the original Misfits was once an inconceivable notion, now it was an occurrence that happened a few times a year. By contrast, whereas the Misfits shows were HUGE and targeted to pretty much anyone even mildly interested in punk, Danzig doing all of the band’s first album seemed to be aimed more at the true devotees, perhaps similar to the Samhain tour from 2014- this isn’t for everyone, it’s for those that really “get it.”

Well, that single note cascaded across the audience while guitarist Tommy Victor let it fade away. And then, he broke into that iconic riff from “Twist of Cain.” Indeed, the band, Victor on guitar, Steve Zing (also of the original Samhain on bass), and Karl Rosqvist on drums, sounded AMPED. The band was loud and particularly heavy. They also played with a rumbling energy that allowed them to present the blues nature of these tracks along with the metal/punk edge.

And then Glenn Danzig, clad in all black except for his iconic skull belt buckle took the stage, and let loose the opening howl. Right off the bat the power of Danzig’s voice was noticeable. It’s not secret that over the past decade, Danzig’s voice has been the subject of criticism. Although it seemed to vary between the classic Muddy Waters blast and a dustier timbre, at the Atlantic city show, he was back to full power. I’d wager GD has been doing vocal training… and it is working, really, really, really well. The animal primitivism was back in his delivery, but so was the Italian baritone richness. It was 1988. It was 2023. It was 1988. It was 2023. I’m not even sure. As other writers have said, Danzig IS his voice, and that unique sound that paid tribute to Mario Lanza and Howlin Wolf while looking towards the dark corners, had been resurrected. THIS was the Danzig fans had been waiting so long to hear and he was in full force.

The band cranked through the whole Danzig 1 album, jumbling the track order, likely for a live show pacing. “Am I demon,” one of the album’s hardest rockers, was particularly explosive with bombastic riffs and Danzig roaring over the top. And of course, the whole night he was doing some of his classic poses, which I’d wager were fifty percent spontaneous and fifty percent practiced. I also noticed, for the first time ever, that just as his singing style is a tribute to early rock and rollers, a lot of his moves are developed from Elvis stances. It might be cliché to continually refer to Elvis when discussing Danzig, but the tribute was clearly on display.

The slower, more ominous “She Rides,” let the band display their musical sensitivity and sense of tonality, as it did their ability to kick it out. And on GD’s side of things, he really did show off those pipes, moving from a quitter musing in the beginning to the full out “SHEEE RIIIDES” mega-blast at the end.

A few times Glenn did stop to comment on the occasion. At one point he reflected that NJ was his old stomping grounds and mentioned working with Rick Rubin. At another, he commented that where Danzig 1 to come out today, he would be banned similar to the PMRC attacks of the late 80s/early 90s. I’m not sure that last point was true- as the recent massive Misfits victory over pop culture has proven, North American tastes have caught up to Glenn in the last 40 years. That being said, I do appreciate that GD forever sees himself in opposition to, well, maybe everything, and that’s one of the things that fuels his great work.

The Danzig 1 set concluded with a massive rendition of “Mother,” of course. And of course, that was a massive sing-a-long. Interesting that the first part of the show concluded with a sense of brotherhood even though the song is a declaration of solitude…

And then, right away, the band broke into a bunch of stuff from Danzig II. Interestingly, a few times, GD seemed almost apologetic that the east coast didn’t get the Danzig does Danzig II tour from a little while ago, and made it a point to say they were doing a fair amount from the album now. “Her Black Wings,” “Tired of being alive,” and “long way back from hell” all got a spin. “Her black wings” was particularly huge and demonstrated Danzig’s level of songcraft- It’s operatic and menacing. It’s dynamic and flies between a quiet reflection and operatic crescendo. Plus, it’s really catchy.

The same can be said for “How the Gods kill,” that got played in the Danzig III section along with “Dirty Black Summer” and the punk stormer “Do you wear the mark.” As massive as the Misfits shows were, and as much as GD seemed to be pleased with that band receiving the kudos, he seemed equally, or even moreso, pleased with the reaction he was getting from playing the ultra-classics of his third band in a smaller, more intimate setting.

After a fairly long break, the band came back out for one final encore- “Snakes of Christ,” which again demonstrated the band’s sense of power and soul, as well as Glenn’s initiable voice. And like that, it was over, the past 90 minute shaving sped by in a blink of an eye and with me hoping we get a live album out of this tour..

While driving home, I found myself thinking about how great the show was and the puzzling figure that is Glenn Danzig. One would have to guess that following the massive arena shows of the Misfits, he must be pretty well set up. So, he doesn’t NEED to be doing club shows and he especially doesn’t need to be doing special clubs shows with stylized setlists instead of just playing the usual hits. GD does take a lot of flack- he’s weird; he’s a diva; he’s not self-aware. All of that may be true, or it may not. But, you don’t get special performances like this if the person ISN’T a little weird… or a lot weird. You don’t get performances like the primary drive isn’t money, or even adoration, but the creation of great art. And as for as the creation of sonic art, this show was top notch and helped answers SOME of the riddles that come together to create Danzig the person and Danzig the band.