REVIEW Electric gig: Patrick Widdess reports on The Damned at The Junction Cambridge on 2 December 2008

The Damned

Once again I find myself reviewing my first gig by a band who have been around since before I was born! Some of the audience probably saw them on tour with The Sex Pistols at the height of the punk era. I was looking forward to hearing the band that survived the implosion of the punk movement, embraced other musical genres, broke up, reformed and changed it's line up repeatedly and made some good music along the way.

At the Junction they get straight to business with a couple of rocking openers but it soon appears all is not well. Frontman Dave Vanian disappears stage left to have words with a couple of technicians. Later keyboardist Monty has a minor tantrum on stage and Captain Sensible has to have his earpiece reinserted by a roadie mid-song. None of this stops them delivering the classic Neat, Neat, Neat full on with the assistance of an enthusiastic Japanese guest guitarist. Finally enough is enough and Dave quits the stage leaving the rest of the band to keep talking whilst Captain Sensible has his earpiece secured with red tape and a couple of extra monitors are installed. In some ways this was the best part of the gig with the band on edge and emotions overflowing.

With everything taped up and plugged in the band carry on mixing old with new. From their birth during the explosion of punk their sound has evolved to include gothic rock, electro-pop and psychedelia. Indeed Captain Sensible openly declares his preference for Syd Barrett over Sid Vicious. He speaks fondly of the local hero at several points during the set and dedicates one song to him, a long Floyd style number which culminates in four of the band members drumming together. They haven't forgotten how they started though and an energetic rendition of New Rose follows not long after. Other highlights include the operatic Eloise and Captain Sensible performing his old hit Happy Talk making it an eclectic evening of musical entertainment.

With Captain Sensible prancing about in his red beret and Dave in his black gloves and tuxedo getting all operatic, The Damned are a unique outfit. They may have sunk into the background over the years and maybe lack to the impact and vitality of their heyday. They don't seem to care though and still enjoying writing and performing music to anyone who cares to listen, and plenty still do.

Writer: Patrick Widdess

The Damned