Nostalgia is everywhere right now ”â live classic album recreations, reunions ”â but for some of us, its not nostalgia. For somebody like me, a gig like this one ”â The Damned playing their classic albums “Damned Damned Damned”Â and “The Black Album”Â throughout ”â is not nostalgia.
I was born many years after punk, but it says something for its enduring legacy and cultural power that it is the musical genre I have come to feel closely aligned to. But for most people here, this is nostalgia. I appear to be the youngest person here; I am certainly the only one to get refused service at the bar (I’m nearly 25). But any sulk I may have had about this being an alcohol-free night is quickly deleted by the arrival of the support act, Viv Albertine, formerly of the Slits. Her banter is the stuff is punk history books as she talks about being in The Flowers of Romance with Sid Vicious and shows us her boots, bought in 1976 from Sex; it also exudes warmth and likeability which contrasts with her bitingly cynical music. Just her and her trusty Telecaster, not another instrument in sight, are commanding and powerful.
Half an hour after Albertine leaves the stage, and untouched by time Captain Sensible takes to the stage, arousing suspicions that a portrait in his attic is ageing, and informs us about “Damned Damned Damned.”Â As the band rip into “Neat Neat Neat”Â, its obvious that 35 years has done nothing to erode these songs. The pace is as relentless as you would expect from The Damned; as they continue to rip their way through “Damned Damned Damned.”Â The crowd are gloriously responsive; everyone is appreciative of how important the Damned have been to punk history. “New Rose”Â, in particular, has earned this kind of status through being the first single marketed as “punk”Â in the UK ”â the cheer when Dave Vanian mutters that iconic first line “is she really going out with him?”Â circles the room.
Albums don’t come much more energised than “Damned Damned Damned”Â, and none of this is lost from the recreation of it in the live show. The album “The Black Album”Â is slightly more atmospheric and multi-layered; when Captain Sensible re-emerges for the second half, he tells us in mock-dramatic fashion how they had “bought something dark to the table”Â¦”Â
As the layers of sound increases, so does the relentlessly entertaining banter, mainly from Captain Sensible. Viv Albertine’s earlier anecdotes about her days in 1976 punk band, Flowers of Romance, with Sid Vicious, suddenly seem oddly obsolete with the range of tales that the Captain regales us with, often going off on irrelevant tangents. In spite of Vanian’s comic interjections (“You’re losing them!”Â “Meanwhile, back at the gig!”Â), in this age were most bands I see live favour a silence that borders on ignorance, this is refreshing and entertaining, and certainly doesn’t take anything away from how utterly amazing “The Black Album”Â sounds live.
The recreation of these classic albums could potentially leave the idea of an encore redundant, but the final sliver of the gig is a glorious slice of making-it-up-as-we-go-along, as the band provide us with yet more lively banter and take requests for “absolutely anything.”Â The final option given to us is whether we want to hear “Smash It Up”Â or “Happy Talk”Â- a running joke of the evening has been the Captain’s threats to play “Happy Talk.”Â “Smash It Up,”Â then, proves a glorious way to end the night ”â lively, frantic and very, very loud. Volume is certainly something which has been given pride of place tonight.
Some people may be cynical about these kind of full-album, nostalgia driven shows ”â but why? They are often a great opportunity for a band to play what people really want to hear, and in the case of the Damned, they have done so brilliantly that it felt like being part of an original movement, not a 35 year anniversary. An amazing live band.