All Shall Perish
@The Regency Ballroom
June 27, 2010
Better than: The Backstreet Boys show happening around the corner.
The photo you see above, of Glenn Danzig brooding with his eponymous band during a live performance, is not from the Regency Ballroom last night. The reason there's no actual image of his San Francisco show? Cameras aren't allowed inside any of the stops on the current nine-city tour. This is the band's first tour in five years. It is peculiar.
I spent some time analyzing this decision, but came up with no real cause other than, possibly, vanity. Danzig last night looked every bit the aging metal icon. The long, greasy mess of black hair - once known for being slicked into a face-covering devil lock during his tenure with '80s punk legends The Misfits - is now thinning and betraying some mild balding patterns.
But aging roots be dammed: The barrel-chested, heavy-metal singer has natural charisma, maintaining both his distinctive howl and his surprisingly huge biceps.
Before Danzig, his biceps, and the rest of the band shook the grand walls of the Regency Ballroom, Portland's Toxic Holocaust and Oakland's All Shall Perish opened the show. The two openers represented the two worlds of metal - the bright-and-thrashy versus dark-and- heavy.
Toxic Holocaust is the former. The band had large toxic waste cans spewing smoke on stage. With a flaxen-haired singer decked out in a bandana, shiny handcuffs, and fresh cutoff vest (and playing a flying "V" guitar) -- its set felt somewhat inauthentic. That said, the singer's low-octave, grindcore vocals differed from what one would expect from a thrash band. And as my show companion asserted, "their drum fills are awesome."
All Shall Perish won me over with this comment: "I'm so fucking glad we have a community of hardcore deathmetal motherfuckers." Actually, it was that sentence and the extremely loud double-kick drumming matched by screamy, chirping vocals.
After All Shall Perish left the stage, the crowd was left to sweat in stagnant, humid smoke for a good half hour, waiting for the main act. Mostly wearing black and some sort of beard/facial hair combo, fans chanted "DAN-ZIG" in a wavering chorus in the dead heat for minutes. The strobe lights were set, the drums elevated. And then, all lights went dark and we were treated to a wailing guitar solo while Danzig finally made his way to the front, walking back and forth across the stage, touching the hands of those pressed against the barricade.
Standing out front of a giant black banner depicting his name and signature skull logo (nope, not the Misfits one you might be picturing), Danzig plowed through a set list of hits from Danzig (1988) through the frustratingly named new album, Red Deth Saboath (the original spelling of the words, apparently). He chose well, playing crowd-pleasers like "Hammer of the Gods," "Black Angel, White Angel" and shred-heavy "Twist of Cain." The screeching false harmonics of guitarist Tommy Victor, enthusiastic but a bit overpowering, backed up Danzig's baritone vocals.
Danzig has this image as a tough dude with a mean temper -- but last night he appeared genuinely interested in the well-being of his fans. He stopped often to throw water bottles to the overheated crowd, and shook hands with every crowd-surfer as they made their way past security.
Drenched in sweat, Danzig closed with the band's most well known song to date -- "Mother." The song, a bona-fide MTV hit in the early 1990s (though recorded in 1988), boasted strong guitar lines and Danzig's powerful, deep and throaty vocals as it dared moms of the world to "tell your children not to walk my way."
This was, of course, followed by the requisite encore. And why not? As Danzig explained, the San Francisco show was the final stop of the tour: "Tonight's my last night," he said. "Then I'm going back to my fucking mausoleum."
Personal bias: Clearly, I was pretty thrown by no photo rule. Though I must admit, it was pretty awesome to see a crowd that wasn't lit by irritating phone and camera screens held up in the air.
Random detail: Danzig pounds his chest a lot to convey emotions, and does a sort of awkward whip dance with the microphone chord.