OAKLAND — Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein—the original members of legendary punk band The Misfits touring as, appropriately enough, The Original Misfits—headlined a five-hour show also featuring punk rock legends Rancid, The Damned and Cro-Mags at the Oakland Arena on Wednesday.
The three original Misfits of the Original Misfits, along with Slayer cofounder Dave Lombardo on drums and Acey Slade of Dope (who never once stepped out of the shadows at the back of the stage) on rhythm guitar, have barely lost a step in the 36 years since their initial breakup.
Flanked by gigantic jack-o-lanterns and in front of a wall of glowing copies of their iconic “Ghost” logo, they tore through their pre-breakup material from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Doyle set the tone—sporting white face paint, the band’s iconic devilock hairstyle and no shirt—with guitar work that was potentially faster and more aggressive than decades ago when the songs were new.
The Original Misfits began with a block of songs from their 1982 debut album, Walk Among Us, including “I Turned Into a Martian” and “20 Eyes” before jumping to Static Age for “Some Kinda Hate.” That ping-ponging between blocks of songs from those albums and Earth A.D. continued throughout the show, adding a level of tonal consistency.
“We’re gonna do a couple older ones,” Danzig said at one transition between albums. He paused and continued, “Well, they’re all old. It’s just a matter of how old, I guess.”
Danzig’s introductions were largely limited to announcing the name of the next song followed by singing the song. He would occasionally marvel at the length of the set—which can happens when your entire nine-track second album clocks in at less than 15 minutes total—and sometimes stare silently at it for an uncomfortably long time. Once when someone in the crowd shouted while he was studying the setlist he shouted back, “Shut up, I’m trying to think!” But once the music started it might as well have been 1980 again.
Jerry Only was quiet throughout the show except the occasional backup vocal, leaving Danzig to do all the talking despite being the band’s frontman from 1983 (when Danzig left) to 2016 when they reunited. Though he did make his presence known by snapping the necks of two bass guitars over his knee and tossing the remains into one of the many mosh pits.
They saved the crowd favorites for the end; “Last Caress,” mass sing-along “Where Eagles Dare,” and the song described by Danzig as “my version of a love song,” “Die, Die My Darling,” closing out on a strong note.
Berkeley’s own Rancid drew nearly as many fans as the headlining Misfits. Albany natives and co-vocalists Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman mostly played the hits with a couple tracks from their most recent album, 2017’s Trouble Maker, thrown in to remind people they’re still making music.
After opening with a couple deeper cuts, including 1994’s “Radio,” while people filed in with their drinks, they launched into “Journey to the End of the East Bay,” which would be a deep cut elsewhere in the world but was understandably popular in the East Bay.
Near the end of the show guitarist Lars Frederiksen said it was his son’s 12th birthday, so he asked if he wanted to see his dad’s band or Iron Maiden the previous night at the same venue. His son immediately picked Iron Maiden.
“I told him, ‘Run for the Hills’ don’t pay the bills, ‘Ruby Soho’ does,'” Frederiksen said. “‘Let Iron Maiden buy you shoes, then.'”
Snub aside, he did dedicate the band’s two biggest hits and the last songs of the set, “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho,” to his son. Who may or may not have been there to hear it.
English punk pioneers The Damned played for far too many empty seats, as fans of Rancid and the Misfits had yet to arrive. Founding vocalist Dave Vanian, the original goth, and founding guitarist Captain Sensible led the way in their signature all black clothing with red beret, respectively.
They were joined by longtime band member and notably eccentric keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch and bassist Paul Gray, who left the band in 1983 and recently rejoined. They are, if anything, even more polished now than they were in their prime, which isn’t always a good thing but works exceptionally well for their sound.
Not wasting a lot of time with stage banter in their relatively short set, the band’s music was only occasionally broken up by quips from Vanian. After “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today,” for example, he retroactively dedicated it to Brexit. Later on they agreed that Duran Duran are “the biggest snobs in showbiz” and “a bunch of fucking wankers,” which says a lot coming from a band that’s been in the punk scene for over 40 years.
Captain Sensible nearly slipped up at the end by saying, “Thank you, San Francisco!” to an Oakland crowd before making a deft save with, “And Oakland, and the surrounding areas!”
Opening the night were New York punk mainstays Cro-Mags. Lead singer Harley Flanagan, born in San Francisco but raised in New York, was a bit more solemn and thoughtful than usual on account of the concert being on Sept. 11; he opened the set by dedicating the show to the victims, and telling the crowd that he had watched the events of the day from the roof of his building.
Fortunately the solemnity didn’t extend to the music, and it became immediately obvious that the band was one of the progenitors of thrash metal. From their early songs to “No One’s Victim,” the first single from their upcoming album, it was hard, heavy and fast—making the 25-minute set feel even quicker.
Flanagan also did the best job pandering to the crowd.
“Come on! This is Oakland, not Frisco! Make some noise!” he yelled at one point early on, as people were filing in. This got a cheer for the sentiment as much as the song.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.
A previous version of this post said Matt Freeman told the anecdote about his son. It was Lars Frederiksen.