The Original Misfits, Rancid, The Damned, At Madison Square Garden, Saturday, October 20th, 2019, Reviewed
Not merely the final night of the (Original) Misfits tour, but also the final night of the (Original) Misfits existence, they sold out Madison Square Garden and cemented the end of punk, at least as originally conceived. Punk, back when the Damned started, in 1977, was certainly not this. The Damned, who released the first punk single, “New Rose,” the first punk band on Stiff album Damned Damned Damned , were the first punk Judas (performing live when headliners the Sex Pistols were banned on the Anarchy In The UK, tour -the Clash refused), and in their Halloween guise, the first punk band to put a knife in the back in the teenage revolution roiling Britain.
All is forgiven 42 years later, right? I mean, no Dave Vanian, no Glenn Danzig, right? And none of us are here tonight. Actually Dave namechecks Brian James, the composer (if that’s the word) of their first coupla albums as well as a fast and brutal guitarist, as the reason we are all there. The Damned’s set was no longer punk, ten songs in 45 minutes maybe many things and one of them is the antithesis of punk as written, while performing at Madison Square Garden isn’t, as Glenn claims, a triumph, it’s a distance between what was and should have been and what is. The Damned were cartoon cutouts, though less so then when I saw em back, back, back when Dave was dressed as Dracula. He isn’t anymore, and let’s face facts, they aren’t getting any younger. What they are doing is maintaining the brand still, after all these years. Puerile, loud, and with two great songs to their names, “New Rose” and “Neat Neat Neat,” The Damned are the definition of A pregnant goldfish and last band standing from the first roll of London punk, undoubtedly they were a harbinger for the headliners. “It’s great to be back here at CBGB,”“It’s great to be back here at CBGBs”, Dave cracked.
If The Damned and The Misfits are the poster child for punk metal as WWF, Rancid are the true face of independent, DIY punk rock and roll. Rancid are a working class hard rock band, with traces of ska in their DNA. Though formed in Berkeley their politics are mooted except, on song after song, all recorded independently, they exquisitely maintain the sound: a roiling, battering, fast loud barrage that eschews tunes almost entirely (making it closer to LA hardcore of the 80s than three chord punk rock) and perform it with over the roof intensity. The problem is that twenty minutes in, the songs seem to merge into one long barrage though we did get their greatest moment right at the end, “Ruby Soho,” and the incongruity of venue and band is not lessened by a vicious moshpit in the General Admission floor. Rancid namechecked top New York bands like Cro Magnons and Agnostic Front, as they should.
For the final night of the Misfits reunion, it is business as usual: 27 missing links between the Ramones and Rob Zombie, with man in black Glenn Danzig pudgy but willing. The New Jersey horror punk reunion with bassist Jerry Only, and power guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (whose son once sent my companion for the night and occasional rock nyc scribe Justine a picture of his dick because “because that’s what guys do”), as well as Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo.
These are all pros and it shows and in a mix of thrash metal and punk, the Misfits played a packed with beloved songs set which, like punk itself (which is why it lives on 30 minute gigs), got a little tedious. It is true of genre music as such, you can definitely feel it in rap, horror punk is set in rules of stone, that the Misfits wrote. Sure, fun singalong, with the audience in horror glam outfits, and the band preening itself and pleased but straight forward and funny in its silliness. And then a little boring. New York punk was classic community college middle glass kids, London punk was the revenge of the guttersnipe, LA punk the daylight bled hardcore, and New Jersey? The Misfits is suburban rock for kids raised on Kiss and Jesse Ventura. It is the essence of a sort of America, aesthetically a horror and viscerally a smash through the rigors of lower middle class boredom through escape. Cosplay by other names, the audience embraces a future that happened, and passed them, and doubled back. They’re message is the same as EC Comics, deal with this horror because THAT horror is terrifying. In a world of Make America Great Again, the Misfits teens on Mars riff roar riff ramalamadingdong keeps the world at arm’s length. Make America Misfits Again… that’s what I say…