It’s been 41 years since the London based band released their debut record “Damned, Damned, Damned” and with 2018’s “Evil Spirts”, their highest charting record in decades, The Damned are back and ready to raise the dead.
While other peers of punk fell to their own success or faded into obscurity, The Damned, under the stewardship of Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible, have kept their freak flag flying since 1976 and here in Warrington at Pyramid & Parr Hall, you can see how they have achieved their longevity with their devout fans across generations. From the original Punk clinging to his thinning, greying mohawk to the younger fan who discovered his dad’s old record collection, backed “Evil Spirits” through Pledge Music or maybe heard “Neat, Neat Neat” blasting over the speakers in Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver”, the crowd is as diverse as ever and that new blood and energy seems to have infected the band.
Liverpool based, Vile Assembly kick things off rather unceremoniously, going from a soundcheck to show to the bewilderment of the crowd but it doesn’t take long for the quartet to find their grunge-tinged groove with a scathing inditement of the current political landscape in songs like “Suicide Feast” and “Propaganda”. As the band strike the last chord and frontman Paul Mason repeats the essence of their band, this is what punk should be. “F*** the System” indeed.
The Pyramid & Parr Hall is an interesting setting for The Damned with the venue being reminiscent of a school hall. With the small stage, no barriers and minimal security it all felt a classic DIY show but in a much classier setting.
With an extensive touring schedule in recent years, The Damned show no sign of slowing down. Even Captain Sensible’s broken ribs in 2017 didn’t stop the tour as the Captain played from a “throne” instead. Tonight all members are in top form as they launch into “Plan 9 Channel 7” and Vanian prowls the stage, in his trademark gloves, leather jacket and shades, ever the goth rock pioneer.
Monty Oxy Moron launches himself across the stage like a man possessed throughout the night as Captain Sensible and Vanian captivate the audience with a roaring rendition of “Love Song”. Paul Gray and Pinch keep the trade marked punk rhythm locked down in“Democracy?” and the Morrisey dedicated “Just Can’t Be Happy Today” and it gets the crowd bouncing as if it was ‘77 all over again.
The audience embraces the new tracks “Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow” and “Devil in Disguise” and they hold up next to any of The Damned classic back catalog. As the set nears the end, the one-two-punch of “New Rose” straight into “Neat, Neat, Neat” launch the crowd into a frenzy as pints and bodies fly. With a rapturous applause The Damned end the night with the always riotous “Smash It Up” and “Looking at You” leaving no doubt that not only do the old guard still have it but they can keep on having it for as long as they bloody well want.
As the final notes of their final encore ring out and the masses begin to filter out, one has to look around at what is left of the punk scene and see who is still standing. Johnny Rotten/John Lydon of Public Image Ltd (Although can you be truly punk while not believing it’s not butter) continues to tour as do the UK Subs and The Skids but in venues half the size yet The Damned are still here holding a high charting record, playing continuously large shows and bringing in generation after generation of audiences. Is it down to their embracement of modern technology, funding their latest record through Pledge Music or their 2015 documentary “Dont You Wish That We Were Dead?” bringing in new fans and rekindling the old or is it simply that these punk rock legends have remained true to form and from “New Rose” to “I Don’t Care” their output has been tough to beat!
Whatever these Evil Spirits are doing, they are doing it right! Catch The Damned on their November tour up and down the UK including the Liverpool O2 Academy on the 29th of November.