Damned if we go to a(nother) Punk show

It can be funny the trajectory that life takes. I first heard of The Damned in late ’76 when a classmate started raving about a single that his brother had just bought.

I was allowed to borrow the record and after the first few seconds was hooked. A few months later I took the money that I had been saving to buy some running spikes, and instead bought the first Damned album. Over the next few years my musical tastes moved on and those early Punk records, while fondly remembered, rarely made it out of their covers anymore.

About a year ago, my wife bought a compilation of early Punk and New Wave stuff to listen to in the car. Almost immediately our newly teenaged son was insisting that one track was played on every journey. His choice was none other than ‘New Rose’, the same song that had grabbed my attention some 40 years earlier.

That is a rather convoluted explanation of how I find myself at a Damned concert for the first time in well over 3 decades and how I am bursting with pride, because my son is looking forward to it even more than I am.

We arrived early to ensure that we had a good view and so saw both the support acts. Kristeen Young came across as a bit too earnest and wasn’t helped by the sound which made her lyrics unintelligible and the kick drum irritating. Slim Jim Phantom and his band treated us to some well-played and very enjoyable Rockabilly. A nice hors d’oeuvre for the main event.

The chords of ‘Mars’ from Holst’s Planet Suite announced the imminent arrival of The Damned and they started in fine form with ‘Wait for the Blackout’. The five songs that followed were mainly from the early eighties apart from the new single ‘Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow’ and also featured the song ‘Silly Kids’ Games’, where Captain Sensible provided the vocals. Then the songs from my era started to appear. Firstly ‘Anti-Pope’ and then ‘She’s so messed up’, before they brought out the big guns.

Vanian wandered towards the front of the stage holding something small and red, and casually almost whispered into his mic ‘Is she really going out with him?’. Of course all hell broke loose and the already noticeable mosh pit immediately quadrupled in size. ‘New Rose’ was followed by ‘Love Song’ and the mayhem continued, until the Captain announced that he was cream-crackered and things slowed down slightly.

my son is looking forward to it even more than I am

Amongst the remainder of the main set we were treated to ‘Elouise’, a very effective extended version of ‘Ignite’ before they closed it with ‘Neat Neat Neat’.

Only a short wait and the band returned with the instrumental ‘Seagulls’. A ‘B-side from the time when that meant something’, the Captain informed us. A couple more songs and then Sensible and bassist Paul Gray meshed perfectly together to bring us the opening of ‘Smash it Up Part 1’. Monty Oxymoron soon joined on the keyboard and then drummer Pinch. Of course this was immediately followed by ‘Part 2’, and again the mosh pit went nuts. A short second encore of ‘Jet Boy Jet Girl’ followed by a cover of Cochran’s ‘Something Else’ with lead vocals by Slim Jim and it was over.

It’s good to see Paul Gray back and bouncing around on the stage. Monty has been around a long time now and is great onstage, bringing a contrasting image to the band. Pinch is a great drummer – precise, but noisy. Vanian was in fine voice throughout and prowled the stage in his trademark manner. He and the Captain are obviously still enjoying it 41 years in. Which brings us to Sensible himself. He has mellowed his antics since I last saw them. He kept his clothes on, for a start. But he is still mischievous when he wants to be. For instance, there were a few silly minutes when a member of the crew was trying to put Sensible’s microphone back in the correct place, while the Captain thwarted his efforts at every turn. For all his antics though, it’s obvious that the Captain is a very talented musician as he provided nearly two hours of great and varied guitar playing.

Words by Glyn Rogers. Photography by Nick Henderson – not to be reproduced without express permission.

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