“The band played so tight it felt, at times, as if they were simply dancing to a copy of the album.”
What better way to celebrate 35 years of being one of the most influential punk bands ever than to go on a huge world tour (U.S, U.K and Australia) and playing the two, debatably, most iconic albums from your back catalogue? I suppose a big birthday cake filled with L.S.D and cocaine would be better but, given the current financial situation in the world, the white stuff has been hard to afford (I’m talking about flour, obviously). The Damned went with the former, and I was lucky enough to catch the horror-tinged punks at Manchester’s Academy 1.
It should have been a great night all around and it nearly was. The only downfall was, opening act, Viv Albertine. Once guitarist for, the now defunct, punk band The Slits, Viv broke the night in with a set of stripped down punk songs, so stripped down in fact that it was just her and an electric guitar which sounded like it was barely plugged in. A bad sounding guitar wasn’t the only downfall of the set. I imagine even with a full band setting they wouldn’t hold much water. Her vocals were completely off, and the lyrics were often reminiscent of a child who’s learnt a handful of, semi-crass, limericks. Her final song was definitely the best, ‘Confessions of a MILF’ did clarify one thing about Viv, she might be a little older now but she was still pretty easy on the eyes. Her short skirt gave a little reason to not head back to the bar. Nevertheless, nice pins weren’t enough to make up for what felt like a forced set of songs about a sexually liberated, self-confessed mother. Mid set a drunk guy turned to me and said, “it’s fucking punk rock, innit?” If so, maybe we should give up on the whole damn scene.
After nearly vomiting from the visual display that pre-empted their set, The Damned took to the stage. They tore into the entirety of, 1977 classic, Damned Damned Damned, playing everything aside from ‘Stab Your Back’. Why such a great song was missed from the set is insane, but this did little to diminish the intensity too much. The band played so tight it felt, at times, as if they were simply dancing to a copy of the album. Their energy levels don’t seem to have dropped one iota since the days of its release (fair enough I wasn’t alive, but that’s what YouTube is for, right?), and if anything the years of touring has made them a much stronger live band than ever before. Though I was curious as to why, keyboardist, Monty Oxy Moron was on stage during an album that features no keyboards. My heart goes out to Monty though, he jumped around like a maniac, playing no keyboard, offering the occasional backing vocal, and looking like he was as excited to be part of the show as the audience were to be watching it.
The band left for a brief intermission before returning for the second instalment. “Alright, it’s now 1980 and we’re in a studio in Wales” announced the Captain, changing from his Yeti-like garb to a much cooler looking Dennis the Menace styled ensemble. I hadn’t drank enough to believe him but I knew what was coming and the band blasted their way through the, more progressive, Black Album. Even though I can’t fault it, listening to this after something as intense as Damned Damned Damned felt like a bit of an anti-climax. Monty was finally given a real musical role and played fantastically. Singer Dave Vanian’s vocals began to give towards the end of the album but he pulled through, giving the haunting punk inspired melodies the mellifluous vocal talent that is missing from so many of the more vocally aggressive punk bands from the same era.
They returned for an encore of a few choice hits, ending with the greatly received, albeit cliché, ‘Smash It Up’, leaving the audience blown away and leaving me upset that the night was over. I’d had two of the greatest punk albums ever played before my eyes by one of the greatest punk bands ever, but it had left me salivating in hunger for more. Maybe next time they’ll play all their albums in one night?