By Sarah Henning
Anchorage Daily News
The current incarnation of the Misfits was aptly represented Saturday night by its skull mascot – both the band and the skeleton have seen livelier days.
The group’s intense punk sound and horror schtick was rousing enough for the 1,200-plus Egan Center crowd, a churning pit of jostling bodies, candy-colored hair, flying sneakers and ripe armpits.
But everything about the performance felt dated and predictable, and about as edgy as the band’s line of bobble-head dolls.
New York City’s late-70s punk scene gave birth to the Misfits, who stood out with Glenn Danzig on the mic. Danzig was a singer not a screamer, which made the group a melodic rarity on the scene. The Misfits were also pioneers in the horror rock genre. Like Alice Cooper and Kiss, the Misfits’ look and lyrics were inspired by the creature features they watched as kids.
Anchorage saw the Misfits with just one original member, Jerry Only on bass/lead vocals. The current lineup usually includes Black Flag alums Dez Cadena on guitar and Robo on drums, but Saturday Eric "Goat" Arce (Murphy's Law) filled in on skins.
Only, still formidable at age 48 in his spiky leather vest and devil-lock hairdo, is a charismatic hulk of a man, a sneering and strutting figure wielding a bass disguised as a medieval torture device. He looks like someone who could execute most of the carnage he sings about. But his vocals are largely a poor Joey Ramone imitation and don’t stand up to Danzig’s legacy.
After local openers Spitshine and Stuntcock, the Misfits took the stage for just over an hour, machine-gunning tight, short aural bullets at the crowd, mostly from back in the day: “Astro Zombies,” “Halloween,” “Teenagers from Mars,” “Elvira.”
On the spectacle-o-meter, the band didn’t meet expectations set by their previous Lower 48 shows. Besides a fog machine and a skull backdrop, there were no ghoulish antics.
Sonically, the band delivered exactly what punk audiences revel in: raw, fast and loud. The all-ages crowd – a living, breathing black-hoodie farm – kept up three, sometimes four mosh pits at once. The Egan’s rubber mat flooring gave way in time to the music under pulsing Converse sneakers and military boots.
One whiff of the B.O. in the room was enough proof that the show was raucous fun. But critically, it felt too much like watching a museum diorama come to life. Besides the ever-revolving door of band members, little has changed for the Misfits over the past 30 years.
Shock rockers such as Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie have taken audiences so much farther with the horror aesthetic, the Misfits seem quaint by comparison. And lyrics such as “I hate people” and “I’ll be seeing you in hell” are about as fresh as Bela Lugosi’s corpse.
No matter how solid a show is, or what a band’s place is in rock history, without evolution, a band becomes a nostalgia act. The Misfits still rock, but creatively they’ve buried themselves alive.