Rock City
live review

Nostalgia is everywhere right now ”“ live classic album recreations, reunions ”“ but for some of us, its not nostalgia. For somebody like me, a gig like this one ”“ The Damned playing their classic albums “Damned Damned Damned” and “The Black Album” throughout ”“ is not nostalgia.

The Damned- live review
classic psyche punk from these varied looking gentlemen The Damned- live review

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.” As the band rip into “Neat Neat Neat”, 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.” The crowd are gloriously responsive; everyone is appreciative of how important the Damned have been to punk history. “New Rose”, in particular, has earned this kind of status through being the first single marketed as “punk” in the UK ”“ the cheer when Dave Vanian mutters that iconic first line “is she really going out with him?” circles the room.

Albums don’t come much more energised than “Damned Damned Damned”, and none of this is lost from the recreation of it in the live show. The album “The Black Album” 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”¦”
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!” “Meanwhile, back at the gig!”), 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” 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.” The final option given to us is whether we want to hear “Smash It Up” or “Happy Talk”- a running joke of the evening has been the Captain’s threats to play “Happy Talk.” “Smash It Up,” then, proves a glorious way to end the night ”“ 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 ”“ 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.

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Notts born and bred contributor to Louder than War since 2011. Loves critical theory and Situationism and specialises in cultural "thought pieces" and features, on music, film and wider pop culture.


  1. Stu on bass (it used to be Pat Morrison, or Mrs Vanian as she is never called, late of Sisters of Mercy, Gun Club, The Bags), Monty on keyboards (bona fide nutter) and Pinch (used to be in English Dogs??)on drums – almost as good as the mighty Scabies!

    • pinch is better though had to bite my tounge hard as have always thought rat was king!! Pinch you have mastered it by the waY YOU deserve the 35th snare

    • monty you are a nutter but F**k you do your part so well remember seeing the Capt in late 70’s when he went lead !! getting a blow job whilst playing love song!! Electric Ball Room, Camden 1979

  2. […] British music scene was Little Jimmy Osmond, the Partridge Family and 20 minute drum solos,” says Captain Sensible after striding onstage for The Damned\’s 35th anniversary show. “This is the album that changed […]

  3. I’ve seen Sensible playing ‘Looking At You’ with his kecks round his ankles, guitar over his head and some young lady pouring beer into his gob! Another time playing something fast whilst being carried around the stage by a roadie. And, please God, I don’t want to see his arse again; my nerves couldn’t stand it!

  4. […] of Louder Than War will know the tour started last year. We reviewed both their London & Nottingham gigs. Now here’s another of our reviewers, Scott Zverblis, with a review of their Warrington […]

  5. […] came from and have dug into the same roots. One comparison I heard was that the songs were like The Damned New Rose…not a bad thing in any way shape or form. Four guys having a ball and dragging us along […]

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