26th November, 2016
Review by Jarod Lawley
It’s never a surprise to hear that The Damned are playing London again, but this year, it’s been a bit more special. After playing the Royal Albert Hall, which they were previously banned from, the punk crew return to Brixton Academy- an ambitious sized venue for a band who in their hey-day were used to playing venues the size of the considerably smaller Kentish Town Forum.
Tonight opens on a softer note. Penetration play their brand of up-beat, slightly psychedelic post-punk to what begins as a very small crowd.
I’m uncertain whether this band was a good choice. They ‘chill out’ the crowd rather than warm them up. Even their cover of The Buzzcock’s “Nostalgia” sounds incredibly laid back.
Don’t get me wrong, they play extremely well. Their varied set list is tight and they look great on the very small parameter of the stage they’ve been assigned. Frontwoman Pauline Murray seems nervous however, and gives no crowd interaction.
Overall, they were a quality group that I’m sure plenty of people went home and checked out, but they were not what the majority of people at a punk gig were hungry for.
After a lengthy turnaround, it’s time for the fathers of punk.
‘Turn that shit off’ shouts The Damned’s Captain Sensible, remarking about the cheesy, ELP intro music of “Fanfare for the Common Man” before he strides onto stage in his signature shades and beret.
Tonight is about history- the band are celebrating 40 years since their debut, and Sensible begins by telling us of how the band hated the over-indulgent prog of the 70s, before launching into the opening track of their reaction album, Damned Damned Damned.
“Neat Neat Neat” immediately sees beer cups fly and the crowd jump around like maniacs. The band have lost none of their energy over the years and neither have the audience. Frontman Dave Vanian’s voice never fails and his snarls and cries sound as rebellious and smoky as ever.
They speed through their debut in full, only saving “Stab Your Back” and Stooges cover “I Feel Alright” till later in their set. The band then rock through the best numbers of Strawberries before introducing ‘the only real musician’, as trumpet player Chris Coull joins the motley crue for “Grimly Fiendish”, “Stranger on the Town” and “Alone Again Or”. The band are clearly working through their history, and even Sensible admits, ‘it’s a weird set list tonight’!
Following a set full of so much energy, the encore sees a drop in pace as the band restart with a Jefferson Airplane cover, “White Rabbit”. It’s a poor choice, and an up-tempo track such as “Looking at You”, which was missed out, would have gone down better. However, “Noise Noise Noise” makes a chaotic sign off before the band remain on stage to thank their fans and wish them a good Christmas. This isn’t very punk, and Sensible knows this, doing a impression of Johnny Rotten – ‘ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’ to compensate!
It’s a rare treat to see a band who’ve been touring for decades but still look and sound fantastic on stage. Tonight’s set was a celebration of their triumphant but understated history, and everyone leaves the Academy talking about how it was one of their best London performances in a long time.