Spikes and skulls dominated the look of the rabid punk fiends who filled up the legendary Madison Square Garden when the Misfits, alongside fellow punkers the Damned and Rancid, rock the arena with psychotic lyrics and blistering guitars.
While it may not have shocked too many people that the the original Misfits’ supposedly one-time reunion was extended to a full tour, it was unexpected that the band would headline arenas such as Madison Square Garden. Throughout the night, the bands commented on how unbelievable it all was.
The first to comment was the always quick-witted Captain Sensible of the Damned. He joking told the crowd that it was great playing CBGB‘s. The long gone Bowery club would have been the obvious venue for such a show 40 years ago. For such a seminal British punk band like the Damned to play Madison Square garden is a testament to their influence. The Damned not only influenced the headliners in their sonic direction, but their fashion as well. Lead vocalist Dave Vanian’s proto-goth vampire look was immensely influential on fellow ghoulish rockers the Misfits. The Damned tore through 10 song set that was filled with their hits including “Love Song”, “New Rose” and “I Can’t Be Happy Today.”
Rancid were the youngest guys on stage that night, but they are indeed seasoned veterans. With over thirty years experience, Rancid has accomplished much in their careers and now they can include playing, “the worlds’s most famous arena.” Lars Frederiksen admitted to the crowd that he was honored to play the Garden because as a kid he watched on TV a WWF main event from MSG in which Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka dove off the top of the a steel cage onto Don Muraco. The fact that he would site a wrestling match as a great MSG memory underscores how punks never imagined that punk rock would play at the venue. Fredrickson gave shout outs to NYHC bands Agnostic Front, Madball, Sick of It All and Cro-Mags who despite being local successes never got to play Madison Square Garden. The audience sang along and moshed to their set which was heavily based off their hit album, And Out Come the Wolves.
By the time the Misfits appeared on stage the audience was amped up. The band did not disappoint as they ripped through hit after hit. Having seen their previous sets at Riotfest and their New Jersey show last year, I was blown away at how great Glenn Danzig sounded. Danzig’s voice at the earlier shows in their reunion was often lacking and he tended to sound out of breath. This was however, not the case at Madison square Garden where Danzig’s trademark croon was in fine form and reminded the audience why Misfits songs were so unique in the punk scene.
The Misfits’ 27 song set included mostly songs from their classic period which included the albums Walk Among Us, Earth A.D., and Static Age. It was great seeing the camaraderie of the band. Danzig hyping up how monstrously big bassist Doyle Von Frankenstein is. Jerry Only was teased by Danzig for his endless row of basses backstage that roadies kept handing to him every time he smashed one after a song. Props were given onstage by Danzig to former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and guitarist Ace Slade (formerly of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts). Their presence really added the extra boom to the Misfits’ sound needed in order to play these arena tours. Danzig seemed to be in awe of headlining an all punk rock show at Madison Square Garden and thanked his friends the Damned and Rancid for being part of it.
The fans loved every second of the show. Watching Danzig sing about razor blades in apples and killing black cats in the song “Halloween” while two large jack o’lanterns loom over him gave the ghoulish rockers in the crowd a thrill so close to the actual holiday. One of the most exciting fan moments came when a wheelchair-bound woman crowd surged close the stage to have a great moment with Jerry Only. Stopping in the middle of his knee-sliding across the stage act, Only noticed her and instead of smashing his bass, he gave it to her complete.
The explosive main set ended with “Last Caress.” Despite the set ending, “sweet death” didn’t come for the show as an encore featuring “Die, Die My Darling,” “Bullet” and Night of the Living Dead” happened. The show finally ended with an enthusiastic sing-along to the mysterious lyrics to “We are 138.”
So while this may not be the “final show” being advertised in their reunion tour, the Madison Square Garden concert was indeed historical in that a sold-out punk rock show at a world-renowned arena succeeded expectations and reinforced the Misfits’ legacy.