Thursday, April 6, 2017

Show Time!

The Damned
THE DAMNED - LEATHERHEAD - The Studio, Auckland, New Zealand - 8 March 2017
I thought my days of seeing THE DAMNED were pretty much done. After 35 sightings, the last of which was in my home town of Ipswich, I was set to call it a day. Then this 40th Anniversary World Tour is announced, along with a New Zealand date. How could I possibly refuse the band I’d seen that many times? I knew what to expect - which was minor disappointment but laced with great songs, a great vocalist and a few laughs. So, I bought me ticket to DAMNED 36.
I’d never been to The Studio before and, I have to say, it’s a shit venue. One big room with a narrow entry, crap sound and fucking $10 for a (small) bottle of beer!! If it’s competing with The Powerstation (Auckland’s best venue), it has a long way to go!!
Waiheke Island locals LEATHERHEAD started things off and bored me. Imagine BEASTS OF BOURBON Garage Blues ballistics fused with COWS noise-Rock bluster and you’re kinda there but without being as genuinely unhinged as either band. The guitarist (who was in THE PHANTOM CHORDS along with Dave Vanian) had a great sound it has to be said. Of the songs, the only original I recall is something called ‘Bacon’ but, without a doubt, the highlight was a maniacal cover of VELVET UNDERGROUND’s ‘White Light, White Heat’. They left the stage with a few expletives and that was that.
It was a bit of a ramshackle start to DAMNED proceedings. Keyboard player Monty came on and, from that moment, was very nearly the star of the whole show leaping around, playing stellar keys, providing lots of laughs and a genuine enthusiasm I haven’t seen from someone in THE DAMNED since Bryn. That said, it’s THE DAMNED and no one gets to upstage Dave Vanian, who appeared sporting a straggly beard and a long, black gothic coat and looked, as always, magnificent.
Monty - The Damned
A few pleasantries from Captain were said and then the tinkling piano intro of ‘Melody Lee’ was played and it was into things - full throttle. A brilliant ‘Generals’ followed (surely the band’s most underrated song) and from there it was a set culled mainly from ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ and ‘Strawberries’. Highlights were plenty: a thunderous ‘Love Song’, the double hit of ‘Black Album’ classics in ‘Wait For The Blackout’ and ‘History Of The World’ and the surprise inclusion of ‘Street Of Dreams’ which was dedicated to the late Bryn. Truly could’ve done without ‘Alone Again Or’ and ‘Eloise’... originals from that era would’ve been way preferential, but, certainly in the case of the latter, both songs were probably expected by those who discovered the band in their latter days. Never really liked ‘Noise Noise Noise’ much either...
Only two Brian Jones era tracks were played - the obvious ‘New Rose’ and ‘Neat Neat Neat’. Both tracks proved a couple of things: Capt can’t get anywhere near the cranked garage punk jams of Brian James and, as good as the current drummer is (and he is very good), he ain’t no Rat Scabies. You gotta remember that Rat was the best drummer of the ‘77 Punk era and would be Top Three drummers ever if there was any justice, so any one brave enough to steal his sticks and replicate his beats is on for a massive job. And yeah, those who get pissed off with ‘Neat Neat Neat’ being drawn out to epic lengths would’ve been pissed off again. I was. I’ve been seeing the band do this since about ‘88 if not earlier and it fucking irks me every time that one of the most urgent, adrenalin laced songs ever is nullified and morphed into an epic ‘moody’ rock workout. ‘Ignite’ was also drawn out into crowd participation leaves usually reserved for Bruce Springsteen and his ilk.
Captain Sensible - The Damned
Predictably ‘Smash It Up’ was saved for the encore (with Captain sporting a neat black and red stripy shirt a’la Dennis The Menace with ‘Smash It Up’ written across it). What was most unexpected and probably stole the gig for me was ‘Jet Boy Jet Girl’ - it even got me pogoing like I was fucking 15 again!!! Haha!! Another surprise was the second encore (by which time all the ‘Eloise’ listeners had left) of ‘Anti-Pope’ which was presaged by some anti-religious vitriol from Monty.
And that was that. All of ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ was played (bar ‘Looking At You’), a clear half of ‘Strawberries’ and nothing from the band’s output post ‘Anything’. I was hoping for ‘Curtain Call’ as always, likewise ‘Thanks For The Night’ which I ain’t seen the band do since mid-80s I reckon, but alas no to both. A few of us tried to get the "Captain Is A Wanker" chant going but again, the ‘Eloise’ lovers seemed a bit confused.
After the gig I discovered my hearing was damaged - genuine long-term damage. It was brutally loud and that shit sound system didn’t help. A few weeks since the gig, the ears have cleared a bit but not the extent of being back to where they were prior to the gig. It’s kinda fitting THE DAMNED was the band to do the damage.
So, the big question is, will I see them for a 37th time or more? Well, if Rat and Brian James get back together with Dave and Captain again (unlikely now I know), I’ll be there.
Until there - I'll remain a member of The Limit Club and say over and out.... Probably!!