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The Damned / The Media Whores

Glasgow O2 ABC (Sunday 20 November)

By • Nov 27th, 2016 • Category: Gig review

This was an epic evening, BM’s first ever exposure to The Damned (what took you so long, you ask, just never quite made the effort, always loved ’em, assumed they would be around forever but that “40” in the tour title, as in “40 years since first album” must have sounded a note of urgency, and had heard some positive reports of action from doon sooth, aka Brexit Central).

The O2 ABC was already pretty full on arriving around 7.30 pm and support band The Media Whores started things off around 7.45 pm or so. BM last saw this lot supporting The Filthy Tongues doon the stairs at ABC2 in the spring and (see previous review) may have thought they were a wee bit generic, but they were a whole lot better tonight, despite a major technical issue during the set. The lead singer’s amp was non-operational after the first song or so, forcing the band to do the next few with just drums, bass and lead guitar plus guitarless vocals, which being the seasoned showmen they are, worked out pretty well.

To the rescue also was Ms Scarlett Flame, who appeared during the third or fourth number. She is actually a former colleague/coworker of BM’s, and she was all woman, her burlesque strip-off down to the tassels certainly distracted the mainly male audience from any technical shortcomings on the rest of the stage. Very tasteful, very voluptuous and quite happy doing merch stall duties later on, a class act, missus!

The Media Whores have an album out now, check it oot!

So to the headliners – and what a revelation they were! Original members, singer Dave Vanian and former bass, now main guitar player Captain Sensible, along with three other guys (drums, bass and keyboards, solid since 2004), took the stage at the back of 9pm, and proceeded to slay it for nigh on two hours. In terms of “punk history” they have several firsts – first single (‘New Rose’, ’76), first album (‘Damned, Damned, Damned’), the play-through of which started things tonight) and, of the first wave of punk in the UK, they are, by tonight’s showing, the very best of the lot.

The Captain’s first gobby (there were no gobs tonight though, even in 1984 REM were shocked at the hail of spit at the Barras, punk traditions died hard…) oratory was regarding “prog” and what they as a band “were against”. Ok Mr Sensible, so you tried to get Syd Barrett to produce album no 2 and when Syd was “unavailable”, on account of, well you know, you got Nick Mason instead – showbiz banter, then!

So this is a fierce and velocity-driven unit, Vanian’s vocals straight on the money, The Captain’s guitar playing searing, blistering and soulful, the keyboard player with nothing much to do during ‘DDD’ just jumps about while the backline provides a solid backline, just amazing, fast, blazing, vital… The 40 year on/off Vanian/Sensible relationship is obviously a bit love/hate, with quips from Dave about ‘Happy Talk’ (ask yer gran) but they clearly enjoy the railing against each other, like a long and eventful marriage. And Vanian is married to Patricia Morrison – well hey, and BM had no idea that PM played with The Damned for a few years, gaps in the knowledge or what?

Meanwhile the “first classic album” schtick had ended, and the band moved into some serious chops, across 40 years of other stuff. There were a couple of “hits”, notably the cover of ‘Eloise’ where Vanian sensibly (!) did not go for the highest notes on the original and kept his mustard dry. Vanian and Sensible must surely have the proverbial Dorian Grays in the loft because for guys in their early 60s they moved like Jagger, or his younger brother, or one of his many progeny. After highlights ‘Love Song’ and the main set closer ‘Smash It Up’ (which it is worth remembering, has a lot of intros, quite reflective really, as well as the nihilistic chorus) most of the audience had shot their bolt. Security did have a few issues, and the band invited one lady who was getting “squashed” at the front up to dance with them, not exactly Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ but a very inclusive gesture nonetheless and almost unprecedented in the ABC or anywhere else, with tight security these days, so fair play to all – the lady in question got embarrassed and walked off after a couple of songs!

And it was during ‘Smash…’ that BM felt that ever so lovely punk gesture, the arm around the neck, like cutting off the windpipe, but ever so loving – such a brotherhood and sisterhood – and clearly some people reliving their misspent youths… The years may not have been kind, but in this case the music has stayed the same and has arguably got better. BM has rarely heard a tighter band and The Damned, on a very heavy touring schedule for this 40th etc tour, are just incredible at the moment.

The encore was also something else! The Captain was “allowed” to sing a song himself, from BM fave album ‘Strawberries’, a rare treat. He quipped that Nirvana nicked the growling bass riff from someone else, he goaded the audience about who, before mentioning Killing Joke, and then the killer line – “that was ours”, and of course, it was! And it is such a summing up type of song, actually called ‘Life Goes On’ – a lost classic, very Beatles-esque.

BM thinks there was another very fast, short song played in the encore as well (have asked The Captain on Twitter but he has not replied!… ‘Melody Lee’ suggests setlist.com), but time was flying at the time… The last actual song was definitely their regular cover of ‘White Rabbit’ by Californian hippies Jefferson Airplane, a massively catchy and dramatic number which The Damned do full justice to – christ it was almost 11pm by then and most of the audience were exhausted – how do they do it?

Long may they continue – The Damned are a force to be reckoned with, and have hidden depths – underestimate them at your peril – top night and worth every penny.

One Response »

  1. Nice review! Check this wonderful archive page for Damned setlists etc.:

    http://whiterabbitskgs.co.uk/live.htm