The Damned/Slim Jim Phantom – Manchester, O2 Academy – 31 January 2018 Print E-mail
Written by DJ Astrocreep and Sabrina Ramdoyal   
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 05:00

Having been a fan of The Damned for a long time and having seen them on several occasions, I gleefully hopped on the train across to Manchester again. Support tonight is coming from the original runaway boy, Slim Jim Phantom, of Alley Cats fame, who I've also enjoyed live before, so all the makings of another good gig were evident.


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Slim Jim takes to the stage, with his backing band consisting of a guitarist/backing singer and a double bass player, to no fanfare, just stepping on together, walking over to his drums and getting straight on with it. The venue is maybe 20 per cent full, which is a bit of a shame for someone of Slim Jim's ability and past, but this doesn't seem to deter him.


Those there are treated to some very well performed numbers, with a couple of covers in the shape of ‘C'mon Everybody’ by Eddie Cochran, ‘Red Hot’ by Billy Lee Riley and ‘It's All Over Now’ by The Rolling Stones, which go down well, as well as an obligatory couple of Stray Cats songs to finish off his 30-minute set. Seeing someone like Slim Jim still able to play as he is is certainly good and helps to keep rockabilly fresh for some that were a generation or two too late to hear it the first time around. A pretty good performance, which is fairly well received.


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Now on to our headliners for the night, as The Damned enter the stage, Dave Vanian joining a touch later than the rest. The atmosphere seems a touch strange tonight like it's not quite there, but The Damned still work their way through the first four tracks to little response, which seems to be puzzling the band as much as some of the audience members too. It's not until ‘Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow’ is played, the fifth track of the night, that there seems to be a real response or any energy from the crowd. A couple of tracks later sees ‘Anti-Pope’ played and the energy lifts a bit properly for the first time. Another couple of songs later sees ‘New Rose’ and there is finally an actual sense of atmosphere for the first time properly in the night, with Captain Sensible himself saying on the microphone “Well, that finally woke you up!” in an act of relief as much as annoyance at the lack of energy from the crowd.


The next three tracks include ‘Love Song’ and the similar before the anthemic ‘Eloise’ rings out through the room, with the crowd finally responding to some of the “New Romantic” era tracks, as the punk dominant audience seems to have had very little time so far for it - which I think has been a big part of the problem, in terms of the audience energy (or rather, their lack of it), and the reflection back of this from the band. A song from the new album comes on, called ‘Devil In Disguise’, which actually receives a fairly good reception, before Ignite has the crowd singing along to the chorus, finally giving the band a bit more energy to feed off. There is now time for ‘Dozen Girls’ before ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ ends the main part of the set and the band quickly walk off stage with no fanfare.


After some of the crowd have wandered out of the room, the band retake the stage to play ‘Seagulls’, before Captain Sensible again announces another new song from the forthcoming album, declaring that title track ‘Evil Spirits’ is “about that thing in 10 Downing Street: what a non-entity she is”, which gets some slight appreciation from the crowd before launching straight into Parts 1 and 2 of ‘Smash It Up’, which finally gives the kind of movement and energy I had expected right the way through the gig. As most leave after this, they do retake the stage for one final track before finally taking their leave for good for the night.


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Overall, the gig was enjoyable. Both Slim Jim and his band and The Damned performed well, but the audience was quite key, in my opinion, in their lack of energy for the majority of both sets. Adding in that Monty's synths never seemed to be high enough, it seems that this particular gig was not quite at The Damned's usual level, but weirdly not through any fault of their own, seemingly. Odd, in not a positive way.


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © Sabrina Ramdoyal/ Über Rock. You can see our full gallery of photographs HERE.


The Damned’s new album, ‘Evil Spirits’, is released on 13 April.


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