By Andrew Bansal
August 30th 2013, Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City CA: The Los Angeles metal faithful gathered at the Gibson Amphitheatre for one final time last night, as Danzig celebrated his 25th anniversary with a special appearance from ex-Misfits guitarist Doyle, and opening acts Scar The Martyr, Cherie Currie and Huntress. Having seen such great shows as the Judas Priest British Steel 30th anniversary tour in 2009, the ‘Clash Of The Titans revisited’ tour with Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax in 2010, and the Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie show in the same year, I’ve always had fond memories of this venue and heard and read a lot about the historic shows it’s had before my time. To see it being eaten up by corporate greed and cast a spell on by Harry Potter of all things, it’s sad to say the least. So, I attended this show for one last hurrah at the Gibson, to soak in its atmosphere for one last time, not really expecting any great things from any of these bands but keeping an open mind and willing to appreciate good performances.
The doors opened at 7 PM and the show began at 7:30 with Los Angeles-based female-fronted traditional metal band Huntress taking the stage. After seeing their underwhelming set at Mayhem Fest recently, my expectations from this band were as low as they could be. I’ll give them that they were better last night than the Mayhem gig, and Jill Janus’ vocals filled this indoor concert hall a lot better than the open fields of San Manuel Amphitheatre. Still, her vocal delivery seems a bit forced and unnatural. I’m not sure why, but I get a feeling that I don’t hear Jill’s natural singing voice whenever she’s doing Huntress songs. But the biggest negative aspect of the band is the complete lack of involvement from Jill’s band mates. They just stand in the background and chug away at their instruments in an almost shoegazy manner. Yes, I get that the band is centered on a female character, but it’s still a band and should look like a band on stage. The way they approach their live show, they might as well rename it ‘Huntress and the Robots’.
Cherie Currie, best known as the singer of the mid to late 70s’ all-female rock band The Runaways, was next to hit the stage with her solo band. It was an absolute trip to get to see her perform a 35-minute set for what must have been her first LA show in a long time. At the beginning of this month I witnessed Joan Jett’s fantastic show at the House of Blues, and to end the same month with a great set by Cherie Curie was cool in itself. Her vocals sounded excellent and the flow in her voice was undeniably smooth, the sign of a true singer. She had a solid backing band to help her put on a complete rock show. It was an interesting change-up from the more ‘metal’ acts on this lineup, but I’m glad Cherie’s band was on the bill because rock and metal doesn’t need to be as separated from each other as it is these days. It’s all under the same family tree of heavy music. Cherie played a great selection of Runaways tunes and a couple of songs from her forthcoming new album. Besides the famous ‘Cherry Bomb’, for me the highlight of the set was the new song ‘Rock N’ Roll Oblivion’, a trippy power ballad with Cherie at her best, well complemented by the musical pieces played by her band mates. The power ballad has gone out of our beloved musical genre. You have no choice but to go back to the old classic bands if you’re longing for a good solid power ballad, but Cherie proved it still has a place in music today. Another interesting thing to note was, other than ‘Cherry Bomb’, Cherie’s selection of Runaways songs was completely different from what Joan Jett played. All in all, a very enjoyable set, and Cherie Currie proved that she still has what it takes to deliver a good rock show.
1. Queens Of Noise (Runaways cover)
2. California Paradise (Runaways cover)
3. You Wreck Me
4. Roxy Roller
5. C’mon (Runaways cover)
6. Rock N’ Roll Oblivion
7. American Nights
8. Cherry Bomb (Runaways cover)
9. Rebel Rebel (David Bowie cover)
Next up was Scar The Martyr, a band featuring Slipknot’s Joey Jordison on drums and and Strapping Young Lad’s Jed Simon on guitar. The music they played is what I would describe as your typical ‘mainstream metal’, relying on cookie-cutter vocals and bland riffs. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Jed Simon performing on stage was cool as hell, and Joey Jordison in my opinion is one of the better modern metal drummers around, but this band’s music is just weak and offers nothing new. I’m not the kind to look for bands reinventing the wheel all the time, but even if it’s something that’s already been done before, as long as it’s done well I can appreciate it. Unfortunately, even though they put good energy into their performance, Scar The Martyr failed to impress. For a band that started only a few months ago and doesn’t even have an album out, it was wrong to put them up as direct support to Danzig for this show. Even Huntress sounded better than this band, and in all honesty, Scar The Martyr should have opened the show instead.
At around 10:30, the lights went out and Danzig appeared on stage among loud cheers. He began the 90-minute set with solo material, and as the set went by, I started to lose count of the number of times Glenn Danzig pulled the microphone away from his mouth, just so people couldn’t hear him going out of breath. Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m just being honest here. My job is to call it as I see it. In the nearly 600 shows I’ve attended in my life thus far, I’ve honestly never seen a singer so incapable of holding a note. His vocals were horrendous during all the mid and high-tempo solo material in the set, but I’ll admit he did a great job on a couple of the slower songs.
Besides the vocals, the guitars ruined the set as well, with Tommy Victor’s excessive use of the pinch harmonics that reminded me of Zakk Wylde, which is never a good thing. I really can’t fathom how a musician can justify to himself, leave alone to his band mates, producer or label, to use such copious amounts of pinch harmonics in the riffs and solos. They are still ringing in my head, 12 hours after the event. It’s safe to say that bassist Steve Zing and drummer Johnny Kelly are the best musicians in the Danzig band, and although their parts are pretty simple and repetitive, they hold their rhythm perfectly and throw in some energetic stage moves along with it. Coming back to the set itself, there was one surprise with Danzig calling on Cherie Currie to sing the Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra cover ‘Some Velvet Morning’, which he also recorded with Cherie for his upcoming covers album. Unfortunately last night’s rendition of this song was corny at best, with Danzig and Currie’s visual portrayal as a ‘couple’ coming off as completely unnecessary, cheesy and over the top.
The moment all Misfits fans were waiting for came soon enough, with Doyle appearing on stage with his monstrous presence and the demeanor of a true punk rocker. He laid down some thunderous riffs as Danzig kicked off a sequence of Misfits songs, much to the obvious delight of this crowd, and to my surprise, he sang those songs pretty well aside from the set-closer ‘Die, Die My Darling’ which he totally butchered. Doyle changed his guitar after every song, and sonically as well as physically, he gave the show a much-needed sprout of punk energy. He used up the entire width of the stage and by walking around from side to side, ensuring that he gave a close look of himself to all sections of the crowd. Songs like ‘Vampira’, ‘I Turned Into A Martian’, ‘Skulls’, ‘London Dungeon’, ‘Astro Zombies’, ‘Bullet’ and ‘Last Caress’ were given the true Misfits flavor by the guitar exploits of Doyle, and I couldn’t imagine seeing those songs live without him playing the guitar parts on them. Most importantly, he took the heat away from Danzig to a large extent, and as bad as Danzig was on vocals, it was very cool to witness a piece of Misfits history with Danzig and Doyle coming together to play some of the band’s most classic tunes.
Overall, it turned out to be a great way for metalheads to bid farewell to the Gibson Amphitheatre. The show was better than what I was expecting, and as for the turnout even though the place looked nearly empty for the longest time, at least the GA pit, orchestra and loge sections were nearly packed during Danzig’s set. I’m glad I went to the show despite some of the shortcomings exhibited by a few of the performers, it was a satisfactory experience for me both from a concert goer and reviewer’s point of view. Danzig will be back with another legacy or anniversary set soon, but the Gibson Amphitheatre will be sorely missed.