I went to see The Damned in Brighton on Monday night with my brother Terry. He's a big Damned fan and so am I 'though neither of us had seen them live this century ('not that big a fan then' I hear you cry- but I will explain myself in the course of this posting, honest!). For me their first album is one of THE great punk rock albums, with 'Machine Gun Etiquette', 'The Black Album' and 'Strawberries' not far behind although they're hardly 'punk' in the accepted sense of the word. And maybe that's why I like The Damned so much- having defined so much of what's now thought of as 'punk' with their earliest work they then went onto produce some of the most interesting and eclectic music to come out of any of the bands from that time.
Also, they were funny. REALLY funny. Well I think they were anyway.
Before we get to them there's 2 support bands to contend with. As we arrived The Texas Drag Queen Massacre are roaring through a number that I don't know the title of but that involved the singer (who's clearly, shall we say, aware of Marilyn Manson) waving a large hacksaw around whilst singing 'DISEMBOWEL YOU' at the top of his voice. Incredibly it's all much more entertaining than it appears written down here and the 4 or 5 songs that follow all go down well with the rapidly arriving audience. Good fun 'though I'm not sure I'll be buying the album, if you know what I mean.
The second band were even better, old punks playing Rickenbacker guitars (always a good sign methinks) and noisy cover versions of old soul songs. Sadly not only did they not tell us the name of their band but no one I spoke to at the venue knew it either. A vacancy exists in their PR department...
After a warning from the DJ that 'if there's any spitting or throwing things at the band then The Damned will walk off stage' (times have changed!) there's thunder through the P.A. and lightning from the lights before 3 shadowy figures walk on stage and (with an invisible guitarist) start 'Wait for the Blackout'. Suddenly there they are- Captain Sensible on guitar and Dave Vanian on vocals, ladies and gentleman, The Damned. And that's why I've, for want of a better term, lost contact with them over the years- they seem to me to be Vanian, Sensible and some blokes. The fact that Pinch the drummer's probably been there longer than Rat Scabies ever was is one that, as a Dr. Feelgood fan, I would do well to remember... and they're sounding great, if a little less chaotic than I remember them. 'New Rose' is almost thrown away as the second number with 'History of the World' inducing mass hysteria among the front row faithful. Then some newer material mixed with classics ('Neat Neat Neat' sounding particularly good to me) and obscure oldies ('Rabid over you' anyone?) with some of the old mayhem surfacing during 'Ignite' which threatened to go off the rails at any moment. Sensible's as entertaining as ever, ranting about Tony Blair and religion amongst other things and playing excellent, underrated guitar; Vanian's in fine voice and an even finer suit; the rest of the band play their parts to perfection. By the time they finished with 'Love Song' and 'Smash it Up' I've remembered why I liked them so much in the first place; by the final encore of 'Looking at You' they're one of my very favourite bands again. Excellent.