Punk gigs of the late 1970s were synonymous with notorious fights whose cause was the rough everyday lives of the people in that era where heavy industry (along with communities that were based on this industry) was beginning to be desJM_2troyed in Europe. Looking back, some people might say that, these were good times for both the communities and the culture that was produced. Today 4 decades after the 1970s, punk gigs contain some moments of heavy head banging, many stage divings and lengthy moments of contemplation from the previous generation. The bands now don’t usually have to ‘fear’ of suffering bodily harm or of the possibility of having to leave the venue in the middle of a gig. On the other hand punk, as an attitude couldn’t be more relevant today where neoliberalism has spread its ”claws” once again attacking and redefining not only the established modes of work but also the form of our cities making a prototype out of the metropolis.

For the past 10 years I have wanted to see The Damned perform live and something always got in the way. I knew about this gig at The Roundhouse a year in advance and I was determined not to miss it. The moment I passed through the door I felt as if I was invited to a reunion betweJM_1en old friends. There were people all around me that must have been teenagers during the 1970s when The Damned started so they must have seen them perform live back then. I was among people that could tell me interesting stories about the 1970s and the gigs at the time, maybe even about the gig at 100 Club in 1976 where The Damned supported the Sex Pistols. I was too late for Rubella Ballet but the Roundhouse was already full when I arrived and the band of Johnny Moped was already playing the 5th song of their set list. Johnny Moped band, which takes its name from the name of its lead singer, was formed in Croydon in 1974 and released two albums in 1974 and 1990 respectively, entitled ‘Cycledelic‘ and ‘The search for Xerxes‘. Following a long pause, 2007 sees the release of two compilations while in 2015 the band released an EP called ‘Ain’t No Rock’N’Roll Rookie‘ through the label Damaged Goods. I approached the stage to see that Johnny was wearing his signature outfit from the 1970s, a leather waistcoat with leather pants. He already seemed drawn out but he kept the energy of the gig high. Soon though, it seemed that the songs required more passion and physicality than he could provide. The crowd was waiting anxiously for the headliners, The Damned, as the front three rows were occasionally enthusiastic with the band. I took the opportunity to go through the merchandise as I hoped to find some of the goodies The Damned make available through their online store. I guess it isn’t practical to travel with a lot of merchandise therefore the band only had very few items for sale and people kept approaching the stall with a ‘hunger’ to capture the moment by purchasing some posters and t-shirts. After 10′ Johnny Moped was applauded as the band finished their set list and gave way to 10′ of waiting time before The Damned appeared on stage. I found myself in front of the stage being informed to my delight, that the photographers would be allowed to ‘shoot’ for the whole duration of the gig! Little did I know about how challenging this was meant to be.

Damned1

At the back wall of the stage there was a huge cloth with the name of the band printed on it and a very slimy light was shedding green shadows on it.

Damned2The Damned had prepared a 21 song ‘best of’ set list and a surprise announcement close to the end of their show. Melody Lee kickstarted the gig and all of us at the photo pit were showered with beer and other drinks coming from the enthusiastic crowd behind us. Cameras were doused, the whole of the photo pit was wet and soon the security people found themselves wiping the floor, keeping the people from jumping on stage and protecting the photographers at the same time.  This was the epitome of a punk gig of our time and I was enjoying it very much! Dave(Vanian) appeared in a black outfit with Damned14a leather motorcycle hat and (the all familiar) sunglasses bringing to mind, Marlon Brando’s look in Rebel Without A Cause. I liked this change from the older vampiric look that Vanian had on stage in the past, as it showed that the band embraces change in a nice and relevant (to their music) way.  Love Song and Machine Gun Etiquette followed just before I Just can’t be Happy Today and one of my all time favourite songs Plan 9 Channel 7. Wait for the blackout ignited the atmosphere even further inside the Roundhouse, as the audience started charging for the stage! Captain Sensible a.k.a Ray (Burns) in his stylish punk outfit wearing sunglasses, was providing backing vocals and gave a very energetic, communicative and engaging show as his movements were accentuating the electrifying riffs. Laurence Burrow a.k.a Monty Oxy Moron at the keyboards was the point of interest on the right hand side of the stage playing the keyboards standing up reminding me somehow of the Wizard of Oz! Pinch(drums) as well as Stu West (bass) were also wearing sunglasses and shifted our interest as they played enthusiastically their important part in the unforgettable atmosphere that the band created on stage!

Damned1Trying to capture all the energy and the aura of The Damned on stage, dancing to their songs and at the same time contemplating their performance, was proving to be a challenging task. Naturally I found myself making comparisons with other bands from the 1970s that I have seen live.  While many of these other bands have a decent stage appearance, not all of them can complete the gig without showing any sign of tiredness and ‘wear’. Not to mention that very few of these bands have prepared a set list made from 21 songs! The Damned are carrying out numerous live gigs each year, for consecutive years, almost restlessly and all of them are of remarkable quality in terms of performance! This live at The Roundhouse was no exception and it is an amazing experience to be in the audience when such a big band as The Damned are playing live. Since this gig the band is performing endlessly in the US and has now returned to the UK adding more dates to their tour. The band will appear once again live in London on December 20,2015 at the O2 Academy Islington (see more tour dates here: http://www.officialdamned.com/). In 2016 the band will also carry out a worldwide tour as they will celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Dave offered perfect performances of the band’s songs and I can’t imagine how much better (if any) he could have performed these songs when they were officially released. This quality of performing older songs with the same and even more passion than before, is the element that keeps the songs alive and relevant. The gig proved that these songs are practiced throughout the years in such a way that the versions that we have heard are not just mummified sonic samples but songs that have things to say and communicate to new audiences. These qualities make a band timeless and worthy of our attention. I am talking about the restlessness that is manifested in the way that a band practices and delivers songs 35 years after their formation.

The History Of The Damned7World, 13th Floor Vendetta and Ignite put a lot of us in a trance as there was not an inch of space in the venue that wasn’t covered by people dancing, moving and enjoying this great performance. The sound was perfect throughout the gig and this helped the band even more, to offer us a deep, spacious and clear sound that didn’t blur the melodies and permitted all of the vocal turns of Dave, to be appreciated even from the people that were sitting at the gallery. Eloise that followed  Stranger On The Town and Alone Again Or somehow marked a transition to the less melodic more punk part of the set list that concluded the official set list with AntipopeNew Rose and Neat Neat Neat. Eloise was the only song that evoked the lyrical melancholic and romantic gothic feelings in our hearts. The song reminded us of thDamned16e direction towards gothic ballads, that the band could have followed from the middle 1980s but didn’t. Some of the albums by The Damned had covers that were inspired by the atmosphere of gothic novels (i.e. ‘Phantasmagoria‘, ‘The Black Album‘, ‘The School Bullies‘, ‘Looking at You‘) and replicated this in the lyrics and their performance. Songs such as Eloise and Sanctum Sanctorum had lyrics that also had a gothic feel. Eloise was the song where photographers were asked to leave from the photo pit earlier as more and more people were charging for the stage and the job of the security people seemed impossible.

I watched the band play the encore from the gallery from where I had a very good view of how the audience experienced the gig. I couldn’t see one person not being overwhelmed with excitement by listening to and watchingDamned17 the band perform in front of them. The encore included ‘Nasty’, Fan Club, I Feel Alright and ended causing massive euphoria with Smash It Up (Part 1&2).

The Damned have saved the best for the end and that is exactly what I consciously did in this text as well. Seconds after  the last note of Smash It Up Captain Sensible ‘dropped the bomb’ by saying that iDamned6n 2016, when the band will celebrate its 40th year of existence and history in music, the Damned will play a …three-hour set list of every song we’ve ever recorded…. Judging by the energy of all the musicians that I witnessed in the Roundhouse I wouldn’t be surprised if The Damned could even offer a 24hour long gig! I couldn’t have predicted how much I would want to see The Damned live again so next year I will make sure to be at their 40th anniversary gig in London at the Royal Albert Hall and the same I wish for thee! Until then…

 

Blaue Rosen box

You can see more photos from this gig here: http://blaue-rosen.com/the-damned_johnny-moped_-rubella-ballet-live-at-roundhouse-june-2015/

Spread the word by sharing this