A packed to the rafters Academy crowd knew tonight was going to be all killer and no filler as The Damned were about to kick off the UK leg of their 'Damned, Damned, Damned' and 'Black Album' tour and, after a painful warm up slot from former Slit Viv Albertine, it was time for the big boys to show how they've managed to last 35 years and remain a captivating and, above all, a thoroughly entertaining live combo.
The Captain took to the stage in a wonderfully fluffy pink big bird suit similar to the one he wore on the cover of 'Machine Gun Etiquette' and welcomed the massed hordes to a musical extravaganza that was about to kick off with almost all of that debut album. As Stuart hit those now familiar bass notes to signal 'Neat Neat Neat' we were off. With very little time for fucking about a near perfect 29 minutes fly by as the band thunder through the tracks off that debut album but once again omitting the brilliant 'Stab Your Back' but it didn't matter too much because when you're having this much fun it would be churlish and picky to sulk over one song. 'Fan Club', 'I Fall' and 'Born To Kill' flew by with Captain doing a sterling job of replicating Brian James's furious guitar parts. Fuck me, how bloody good are these songs? 35 years have flown by and there still hasn't been a great deal of music since that can even come close to comparing to the majesty of this. So much passion and energy and above all these songs are absolutely killer and have lost none of their impact, ferocity or energy. 'I Feel Alright' signalled the end of part one and it was time for a quick costume change before the band returned to the stage for a stab at the genre defining 'Black Album' - an album that's the yang to 'Damned Damned Damned's yin - and a promise of 'Curtain Call' in its entirety.
'Wait For The Blackout' is, of course, the opening number as the Captain has changed out of his sweaty, fluffy fur suit and put on some Rod The Mod-esque leopard print trews and stripey t-shirt as he strikes up the opening lick and the most challenging part of tonight's set. The band looked to be having a ball as they managed to pull off two diverse albums in one sitting, but the treat was the fans being able to hear some tunes that have not been played in a very long time, and certainly not played together. For me 'Silly Kids Games' sounded spectacular as did '13 Floor Vendetta'. They might have had their doubts about pulling this off but trust me they nailed this to the floor and it should have never been in doubt that they couldn't pull it off. Had it gone spectacularly wrong then so what, it would still have been totally Damned, but it didn't and it was a privilege to have witnessed such a performance.
There was still time for a few more after the epic 'Curtain Call'. Could this evening get any better? Nah, not really because first encore was my least favourite Damned recording, that of 'Eloise'; sure it never sounds quite so bad live but I was never a big fan when it first came out, but I can forgive them this because next up was the awesome 'Love Song' followed by a raucous 'Antipope'. Sadly as the band were about to return for a little bit of 'Smash It Up' those douchbags who run our venues pulled the plug as the clock struck 11pm and alas that was it, time had gotten the better of us.
If you even for one second doubted the awesomeness of the Damned in full flight and didn't bother picking up your carcass to check out a date on this unique tour then sadly tis your loss and may you be forever haunted by the proggyness of Captain and Monty duelling on keyboards as they played out 'Curtain Call' in its entire 18 minute splendour. Still the greatest punk band ever! Pioneers, genre leaders, innovators and bloody all round smashing chaps. I bet the Damned could walk on water and turn that water into wine if they so wished. Tonight was epic and entertaining and another superb night out. Did I say I love the Damned? In the dozens of shows I've seen them play over the decades they've never disappointed and just seem to be getting better and better. Awesome!
Next year can we please have 'Strawberries' and all the B-sides in one gig please?