It’s that special time in October where we’re relatively close to Halloween. The time when you look at people’s outfits and go, “Is that an early Halloween costume? Or is that what they would normally wear to this show?” I guess the magic is in the mystery.
It’s a little hard to describe The Damned. They were the first punk rock band from England to release a single, an album, and tour the U.S. Then, in the ’80s, they migrated to goth rock. The singer, Dave Vanian, started performing in formal clothes with vampire makeup. They recently released their tenth album, So, Who’s Paranoid?, which continues with the goth rock sound, but begins to borderline on an almost cabaret feel. Confused? Ya gotta see it to believe it all comes from the same place.
Vanian comes on stage in his black tie frock, gloves, and a monocle. Captain Sensible, on guitar, is in his trademark hat and sunglasses. The bassist is the most punk- wearing stripes and tattoos. The keyboardist was reminiscent of a mad professor who sporadically old man break danced during some songs. The room was hot and smoky, alcohol tinged, and mohawk heavy. The punks outnumber the goths by a wide margin, and this is echoed by the crowd reaction to each song. ’70’s era Damned gets a swirling coed pit, head bopping, sing alongs. ’80’s-present era Damned gets complacent to bored audience reactions. Suffice it to say, the set had its moments.
Captain Sensible had a lot to say. I believe he called McCain ‘fascist’ and definitely called Palin a ‘cunt’. He continuously praised their 30 year career, talking about how no one plays their instruments anymore, comparing current bands to The Monkees, laying into Chris Martin about how boring he is. He went on about barely making money for 30 years being in this band, and how one day he gets a call to do an ad for cereal, and how that made him more money than anything.
The crowd was so lopsidedly in favor of their punk material, that I was surprised that they proceeded to play anything else. A large and loud man behind me kept yelling out requests to the point where I wanted to throw something at him. Songs like New Rose, Smash It Up, and Anti-Pope got the punk bunnies hopping (literally, there were a slew of folks dressed up as freaky rabbits). Then, when another newer song came on, one of the female bunnies turned around and put the whole show in perspective: “No one likes this part of The Damned”.
I left having mixed feelings. They are definitely unique, and kept my interest the whole show. But, the energy waxed and waned so much that it was hard to get swept up in the set. It was very similar to seeing Ministry earlier this year. For a girl who learned about The Damned through The Offspring’s cover of ‘Smash It Up’ and GNR’s cover of ‘New Rose’(hey- I’m a ’90s kid- gimmeabreak), I definitely preferred the punk….and this is coming from a goth girl at heart.
The Damned performance: 7/10
venue (Slim’s): 8/10
value ($25/ticket): 7.5/10