40 years since the release of their genre-defining debut single ‘New Rose’, The Damned continue to prove that in an industry dominated by corporate puppets, punk isn’t dead, and is as relevant as ever before.
The moment the band step on stage, it is blindingly obvious why The Damned have such an extensive and devoted fan following. Whilst guitarist Captain Sensible joked that he should be renamed Captain Senile, and that Zimmer frames should be available at the merchandise stands, the band performed with an energy rarely seen in bands half their age.
Dave Vanian truly is the definition of punk. Building a scathing rapport with the crowd, dressed entirely in black, prowling the stage and snarling his way through hit after hit, he has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand before the music even begins. His almost psychotic stage presence is both enigmatic and captivating; the level of control he has over a crowd is unlike anyone else. The frenzy and energy levels he can conjure from a seemingly placid crowd is the musical equivalent of alchemy. However, whilst in the ‘70s punk gigs were famed for violence and anarchy, this was a night for reminiscence and nostalgia.
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Kicking their stunning sold-out set off with an electrifying rendition of ‘Damned Damned Damned’, the eagerly waiting fans knew that his was going to be an incredible night of classic punk rock. Lasting over two hours, the crowd barely had time to breathe between songs. From ‘Love Song’ to ‘Eloise’ to ‘Neat Neat Neat’, literally every song was a firm favourite amongst the crowd.
However, around half-way through the performance, the night reached a new level of insanity as Vanian screeched the words ‘Is she really going out with him?’. The 40th anniversary of ‘New Rose’ was the driving force behind the tour, and the single shaped the British punk institution in the ‘70s. It was one of the most eagerly anticipated tracks of the night. Chaos ensued in the form of mosh pits, headbanging, pint-throwing and swearing; exactly the level of low-level anarchy you’d expect from one of the three great British punk bands on their anniversary tour. Vintage anthem after vintage anthem filled the venue, with the audience chanting every word in unison. Former bassist Paul Gray, even made a guest appearance for the classic hits ‘Eddie and The Hot Rods’ and ‘The Damned’.
It is clear to see just how The Damned have built their reputation for being one of the best live bands in the world. Heart-stopping drums, mesmerizing bass riffs, phenomenally intricate guitars, and beautifully incorporated keys give rise to a uniquely macabre yet aggressive form of rock music. The musical importance of The Damned is often overlooked or forgotten in favour of more fashionable bands such as Sex Pistols. However, this is punk in its most brutal, raw, and unadulterated form. Bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together, it is music that unites people, proving that as long as there is anger, frustration and passion in the world, there will always be a need for punk.
Photo by Desi Estevez.