Tonight presents somewhat of a conundrum for fans of seminal English artists, with this evenings performance by original ‘class of 77’ punks The Damned falling on the same night that late 70’s 2-Tone ska act The Specials are gracing The Tivoli not far down the road. And while a joint headline tour would have kept most everyone satiated, choices must be made. Those who have chosen to take in The Damned consist largely of a rag-tag bunch of music tragics and crusty old punks, together with a smattering of Fred Perry attired folk who possibly missed their calling up the road.
It would be amiss to label The Damned as exclusively a punk act, for while they can three chord pogo with the best of the safety pin brigade, the music they’ve made across their journey has traversed a bamboozling range of touch points. Which is clearly evidenced by the eclectic, broad ranging set list they belt out tonight, as befitting the occasion of a 40th anniversary tour.
It takes a few songs for the band to kick into their stride and for their sound to gel and deliver the punch and clarity to match the occasion. But before long they’re up and away, dazzling us early with one-two salvo of Disco Man and I Just Can’t Be Happy Today.
The latter period Phantasmagoria album gets a guernsey in the form of the gothic tinged Street Of Dreams. While the sometimes maligned Strawberries album is represented strongly with the anthemic punk rock clout of Ignite, followed by an inspired reading of Stranger On The Town, the crowd lifting in unison with the band as they mutually belt out it’s rousing chorus.
Remaining original members, the flamboyant Dave Vanian on vocals and the self-depreciating joker and dandy, Captain Sensible, on guitar, form the cornerstone of the bands between song banter and audience interaction, in turns self-depreciating and jovial. At one stage The Captain threatens to drop a number off his 1982 novelty record Women and Captains First, but some moments are better left alone. Instead we’re regaled with tales of nicking songs off Abba, as a prelude to the keyboard heavy intro to The History Of The World Part 1.
The Damned are a band who’ve never been afraid to reinterpret the songs of others and tonight sees them drop three reworked numbers into their set. Their take on Love’s Alone Again Or manages to capture the sweeping emotion and grandeur of Arthur Lee’s original opus. While Barry Ryan’s Eloise, another long time Damned staple, is a perfect match for Vanian’s more flamboyant tendencies, with it’s epic sense of melodrama and theatre. And first encore opener, Elton Motello’s Jet Boy Jet Girl, itself almost a facsimile of Plastic Bertrand’s Ca Plane Pour Moi, is given a Damned fine working over.
With all this talk of eclectic sounds and selections, the bands three chord classic punk roots are never too far from the surface. And tonight’s set closers, New Rose and Neat Neat Neat, are true high watermarks of the original English punk movement and whip the crowd into a suitably manic frenzy.
No singalong though tops penultimate number Smash It Up, the song unwinding in it’s full form glory from dreamy intro before breaking into a lope and then rising to the shout it out loud anthem for which it’s renowned. Gleeful grins are plastered across faces and beers are spilt as the crowd officially lose their marbles and smash things up to bring the curtain down on a 40 year anniversary party that will long be recalled fondly.