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Misfits, Rancid & The Damned played Madison Square Garden (review, setlists, videos)

“It’s great to be back here at CBGB,” said Dave Vanian, right before The Damned began their set at Madison Square Garden last night (10/19), and it was the first of many references throughout the night that, yes, this was a punk show happening at the Garden. The reason it could all happen was that the Misfits were playing their first New York City show with Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein in the band since 1983 — and apparently their last show together — but with The Damned, Rancid, and the Misfits, it felt more like a well-curated triple bill than a headliner with openers. The crowd got progressively bigger for each band, but it seemed like tons of people had come for all three, and all three bands had people moshing and yelling along.

The Damned helped pave the way for both the Misfits and Rancid, and the goth/punk blend they developed later into their career of course made them a great fit with the Misfits, and last night they treated the crowd to pioneering classics like “Neat Neat Neat,” “New Rose,” “Love Song,” and more. As you know if you’ve seen The Damned recently, their current live show really embraces the jammy, psychedelic direction they started going in as their career progressed — so anyone hoping for three punchy, fast-paced punk sets in a row may have been a little disappointed — but Vanian, Captain Sensible, and the rest of the band remain great at what they do, and they offered up a handful of pure adrenaline-rush moments.

Up next were Rancid, who kicked off their set with an onslaught of …And Out Come the Wolves songs (and one from the equally classic Let’s Go), and immediately upped the energy in the entire arena. Seated fans rose to their feet, GA broke out into massive circle pits, and Rancid sounded razor sharp. Lars Frederiksen made mention of the iconic venue they were performing at, thanking the crowd for helping “a few working class kids fulfill a fantasy” (and said it was his dream to play Madison Square Garden not because of music, but because of seeing the 1983 Superfly Snuka vs Don Muraco match), and he also showed love to New York City. He shouted out some of the New York bands Rancid loved, like Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Madball, Sick Of It All, Murphy’s Law, and Sheer Terror; he introduced “Rejected” by saying it was the song Rancid opened their first NYC show with in 1993 (and he asked the crowd if anyone was at that show, and then laughed and shook his head when way too many people cheered in the affirmative); and he started fan fave “Olympia WA” with an a cappella crowd singalong which got just about all of Madison Square Garden yelling the “NEW YORK CITY!” line at the tops of their lungs. Rancid took some time in the middle of their set to play some newer stuff mixed in with some other older faves, but after “Olympia WA,” they ended the set just like they opened it, with classic after classic including their three biggest songs, “Fall Back Down,” “Time Bomb,” and “Ruby Soho.” By the chorus of the latter, Tim Armstrong was hovering over the crowd, letting them drown out the band as they sung the hook.

Rancid is no easy act to follow, but when the lights dimmed and the Misfits ran out on stage, nothing else mattered except the barrage of classics we were about to witness. Jerry and Doyle were decked out in classic Misfits gear and running and stomping around the stage, which was lit up by tons of Misfits logos, two gigantic jack-o-lanterns, and a screen of visuals that rotated between Misfits logos and footage that matched the themes of the songs. Jerry smashed his bass in half six or seven times during the show and tossed the remains into the crowd each time (and at one point handed a fully intact bass to a woman crowd surfing in a wheelchair), prompting Glenn to crack jokes about how many excess basses Jerry must have, and in general you could tell Glenn was in great spirits all night. “In 1977, 1978, they said a punk rock band would never headline Madison Square Garden… well we’re here now and we sold the motherfucker out!” The whole spectacle of the show was pretty amazing, but most important of all, they sounded really good. This was my first time seeing the reunited Misfits, but I’ve heard mixed reviews of some of the previous shows, and I would be surprised to hear if anyone was disappointed in the set they put on last night. (Some other BV staffers saw both the NJ show and the MSG show, and agreed MSG was way better.) The band was very tight, thanks in no small part to former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, whose pummeling drums often dominated the show and who is clearly more talented than anyone who drummed in the Misfits during their prime (and Glenn seemed honored to be playing with Dave), and touring guitarist Acey Slade helped hold things down too. But leading it all was Glenn Danzig, whose voice was in fine form as the Misfits tore through 27 stone cold classics.

From 1977 to 1983, the Misfits were one of those bands where just about every song they released became a fan favorite. Because this was way before punk went mainstream, they didn’t really have “hits” or anything, but seeing them play these songs at Madison Square Garden in 2019, you’d think every song they played had been on the charts. Sometimes Glenn would ask the crowd something like “should we do another one off Earth A.D. or an older one?” (as if the setlist wasn’t pre-determined), but it didn’t really matter what the decision ended up being, because every song they played had the crowd at the Garden raising their fists and yelling every word. There were of course some moments that were more memorable than others, but there was really never a lull in the show. It was no coincidence that this show was happening so soon before Halloween, as Glenn (and the gigantic jack-o-lanterns) made clear, and of course “Halloween” was a major standout. So were songs like “I Turned Into A Martian,” “Where Eagles Dare,” “Hybrid Moments,” “Astro Zombies,” and the one-two punch of pre-encore set-closers “Skulls” and “Last Caress,” which pretty much ensured everyone at MSG would be waking up with raspy voices. And then when the Misfits came back out for an encore of “Die, Die My Darling,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “Bullet,” and “We Are 138,” it was right back to the high note that “Last Caress” left off on.

Punk shows are supposed to be short, and even with 27 songs, this felt like one of the shortest headlining sets I’d ever seen in an arena. I really didn’t want it to end, but at the same time, what more could you have asked for from a Misfits show than what we got last night? If they really are not playing any more shows after this, that is truly a bummer.

UPDATE: Looks like they aren’t really done! A Philly show is being heavily teased for December.

Videos, setlists, and some more pictures below…

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Gorilla Biscuits Misfits

The Damned Setlist (via)
Love Song
Machine Gun Etiquette
I Just Can’t Be Happy Today
Anti-Pope
Disco Man
Looking at You (MC5 cover)
Smash It Up (Part 1 & 2)
Ignite
New Rose
Neat Neat Neat

Rancid Setlist (via)
Roots Radicals
Radio
Journey to the End of the East Bay
Maxwell Murder
The 11th Hour
Last One to Die
East Bay Night
Dead Bodies
Ghost of a Chance
Old Friend
Where I’m Going
Rejected
Olympia WA.
It’s Quite Alright
Something in the World Today
Fall Back Down
Time Bomb
Ruby Soho

Misfits Setlist (via)
Death Comes Ripping
I Turned Into a Martian
20 Eyes
Vampira
Where Eagles Dare
Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?
Hybrid Moments
Teenagers From Mars
Children in Heat
London Dungeon
Earth A.D.
Green Hell
Devilock
Some Kinda Hate
Who Killed Marilyn
Hollywood Babylon
Horror Business
All Hell Breaks Loose
Astro Zombies
Violent World
Halloween
Skulls
Last Caress

Encore:
Die, Die My Darling
Night of the Living Dead
Bullet
We Are 138

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