It is an interesting experience seeing The Damned live in 2016. They are of course one of the original and seminal British punk bands – contemporaries of bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. They even have the distinction of issuing the first punk single (“New Rose” in 1976) and LP (Damned Damned Damned in 1977). Though they were never as political as the Clash, or as nihilistic as the Sex Pistols, The Damned still presented a view into the feelings, actions and musical appetite of the disaffected youth of the day.
Yet while the Sex Pistols self-destructed after just one album and an aborted US tour, and The Clash burned brightly but ran out of fuel by the mid-80’s, here we are in 2016 and The Damned are still going strong. They are a different group now to be sure, though the creative team of David Vanian on vocals and Captain Sensible on guitar remain, their glory days of “New Rose,” “Smash it Up” and “Neat Neat Neat” are from a long ago era. But that’s not really a bad thing, since along the way they actually became good musicians and learned how to write songs with a more varied sound and feeling.
That brings us to a sold out show at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. The crowd arrived early and already had a buzzing energy after a great opening set by local garage/surf rockers the Creepy Creeps. The Damned then hit the stage with the anthemic “Street of Dreams” off their 1985 album Phantasmagoria. This sweeping song, with Vanian’s vocals giving it a cinematic scale, was the perfect opening number to show what the Damned have become. By Phantasmagoria the Damned were a punk band that didn’t write punk songs anymore – though they could, and still do, still let it all hang out with punk rock fury when they play the older songs live, they had morphed into something bigger and grander and darker.
So that’s what we got all night during a 2 hour 18 minute set. They played songs from throughout their carreer – from the pedal-to-the-metal roar of “Love Song” off the classic 1979 album, Machine Gun Etiquette; to the unhinged attack of “Ignite” off the 1982 LP, Strawberries; to the goth rock majesty of “Amen” off the 2001 record, Grave Disorder (which marked the return of Captain Sensible after a 19 year absence). And while the crowd was into it from the start, they would absolutely erupt when the band launched into one of its true classics like: “Love Song,” “Alone Again Or,” “Neat Neat Neat,” “New Rose,” and “Smash It Up”. Throughout this 20 song set,the Damned, whose core members are all in their late 50’s to early 60’s, played with a passion and energy that shows no signs of slowing down.
Side Note- Captain Sensible gave a shout out to a local brewery (I think it was Stone) saying that when they used to tour the states they’d bring their own beer because ours was “shit”. But now when they come over, it’s so good that they bring our beer back home with them!
I did not get any video from this show. Really, I think the Belly Up is the worst venue in town when it is sold out and I couldn’t get a good angle from where I was. So here are a few other videos from that show (my thanks to the photographers):