The Damned @ O2 Academy, Liverpool – live review
O2 Academy, Liverpool
Thursday 29th November 2018
During an incredible 42 years The Damned have transitioned from being the comedic rogues of the early punk explosion to being able to sell out the Royal Albert Hall; surely a career high that almost bestows upon them some sort of ‘national treasure’ title?
The Damned, again numbering bassist Paul Grey in their ranks arrived in Liverpool after a near 5year absence at the tail end of their ‘Evils Spirits’ tour, said album, their first since ‘So, Who’s Paranoid?’ released back in 2008 saw them returned to the UK national chart and snatching a No. 7 position… The Damned have come a long way and tonight’s set reflected that as they pinballed between old classics and new excursions.
Vanian was as ever immaculately presented, jet black hair swept back, tinted glasses framing age defying features, he was wrapped in a black ¾ length coat, beneath which were tailored black trousers, black shirt and waistcoat ensemble topped with a black neck scarf, flanked to his right Capt. Sensible in jeans and a cut away jacket, not as debonair as Vanian but having seen him only half an hour early on stage with support band Johnny Moped dressed in just his pink boxers, this was sartorial elegance!
Opening with ‘We’re So Nice’ from ‘Evil Spirits, it was clear the sound engineer hadn’t quite got things right, particularly with Vanian’s voice, however by the time the elaborate opening of ‘Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde’ struck forth things were thankfully settled, allowing Vanian’s sonorous voice to fill the entire venue; having been performing for four decades it is amazing how strong his vocals are, I suggest they have improved, as his own understanding of the music and his own capabilities have grown The Damned have crafted material to best complement each other; this perfectly demonstrated as ‘Evil Spirits’ track ‘Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow’ was delivered with suitably grandiose flair; Vanian prowls the front of the stage, Sensible is hunkered over his guitar, whilst Paul Grey makes full use of the space available; it’s no criticism of previous bassist Stu West, but Grey really does bring something extra to sound, the tracks are somehow more muscular.
‘Wait For The Blackout’ despite the Capt.’s joke request to have the lights dimmed to the point of… yeah you get it, sounds huge, its full of that weird blend of psychedelic gothic grandeur that the Damned have almost created for themselves’
Paul Grey was a co-writer of ‘Lively Arts’ way back in 1982, he is clearly enjoying giving new life to this material, despite the years the track fits effortlessly into the set, Monty providing the keyboard flourishes that elevate the song dangerously near prog territory.
Vanian exits the stage for ‘Silly Kids Games’ allowing his foil, Sensible to show off his vocal range ahead of the Love cover ‘Alone Again Or’ which receives a huge appreciative roar; The Damned have made this track their own, a noir love letter full of blackened splendour, whilst ‘I Don’t Care’ brings things up to date, which even without the brass of the album version sounds fantastic.
‘Love Song’ and ‘New Rose’ are a perfect storm, whilst the opening chords of ‘Neat Neat Neat’ instantly carry you back to 1977, its no longer a sub 3min thrash having over time evolved into a brash gargantuan behemoth, a trick only The Damned could have pulled off.
Encoring with an abridged ‘Curtain Call’ and ‘Ignite’ which saw the band provide the sing-a-long vocals, Vanian led The Damned off, only to return resplendent in discount store Christmas hats and beards and treat us to ‘There Ain’t No Sanity Clause’ and a chaotic ‘Smash It Up’.
The Damned delivered a set that reflected their eclectic career, it was loud, theatrical, at times almost cinematic, but above all devilishly good fun.
1. We’re So Nice
2. Born to Kill
4. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
5. Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow
6. Wait for the Blackout
7. Lively Arts
8. Silly Kids Games
9. Devil in Disguise
10. Stranger on the Town
11. Alone Again Or
12. The History of the World (Part 1)
13. I Don’t Care
14. Love Song
15. 1 of the 2
16. New Rose
17. Neat Neat Neat
18. Curtain Call, Part 1
20. There Ain’t No Sanity Clause
21. Smash it Up