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Gig Review :The Damned Bristol O2 Academy

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Review by Rob Broom for MPM

It’s a Friday night in Bristol and the Damned are playing at the O2 Academy.

Oldies (like me) will recall this place used to be called the Locarno (and later the Studio) and it was where I saw the Damned for the very first time sometime in the very early 1980s.

I’ve since lost count of how many times I have seen them since, but I am sure that compared to some diehard fans I am still a rookie!

First up are the Nightingales, a band I know nothing about, but Captain Sensible mentioned in a Facebook post they are bringing it each night so I have duly turned up to catch the set.

Having watched the show the band were difficult for me to categorise, driving bass and drums propelled an ever changing set of guitar riffs and rhythms. Vocals seemed to be delivered in a monotone style and at times the music got very heavy and proto metal! Overall I was reminded of free form Velvet Underground meeting late 70s punk and avert garde new wave. All very furious, raw and determined. The band barely paused for breath and were warmly received at the end of their set. Certainly intriguing and different. From my point of view a band to investigate further to get a better understanding of what they are about. You can read more about the Nightingales in the Oxford Damned gig review on this website.

Now for the main event- ladies, gentlemen and creatures of the night we are presented with the Damned in their natural environment- live and loud!

The Damned have always been an excellent live band, but I do think over the last 10 years or so they have really hit another level of consistency and power. They have also kept creating new music to sit alongside the existing classics from the 70s and 80s and some of this – particularly the ‘Grave Disorder’ album and new album ‘Darkadelic’ ( you can read an album review on this website) – are exceptional contributions to the bands musical catalogue.

Tonight, prior to the band hitting the stage, we are treated to a brief selection of classic punk songs while the Nightingales kit is removed and final checks are made. Sham 69s ‘Hurry Up Harry’ gets everyone singing along and then the Damned arrive. Captain Sensible humorously asks if we enjoyed singing to the Sex Pistols and then we are off and rocking!

As previously reported in the Oxford review the Damned are playing plenty of material from the new ‘Darkadelic’ album, but proceedings kick off with ‘Street of Dreams’ and the band are not taking prisoners and the crowd welcome them with a roar. Dave Vanian is fully dressed in suit, hat, sunglasses and gloves with barely a spot of flesh exposed as he moves gracefully around the stage. Captain Sensible is grinning like he’s just won the lottery while he plays guitar and Paul Grays bass is instantly noticeable and this continues throughout the set, at times making sounds that made me think of Lemmy circa Hawkwinds Space Ritual on several occasions and that’s no bad thing to these ears!

Next up is ‘Invisible Man’ from the new album and as it’s been on YouTube for a while the crowd certainly keep up the enthusiasm and the jumping around.

Following that we have the double header from the ‘Black Album’ of ‘Wait For the Blackout’ and ‘Lively Arts’. Will Taylor’s drumming is excellent in the former and ‘Lively Arts’ is played at a blistering pace with the crowd really letting loose. This really is top drawer stuff indeed!

Next up we have the introduction to the new album and its music followed by ‘Bad Weather Girls’ which keeps the tempo and the crowd well into it.

This is followed by the rampant ‘You’re Gonna Realise’ and the slower groove of ‘Western Promise’. The band seem like they are really enjoying themselves as they play the new material and no doubt the opportunity to play fresh new music adds to their thrill of playing live and that shines through.

Dave then dons a red nose and the excellent ‘Beware Of the Clown’ storms along. You can see the video on YouTube and by the end Captain has a red nose. This really is a great tune, the band really are on top form and the crowd are with them.

The pace is kept up with the social media commentary of ‘Follow Me’ and the crowd keep moving as the band power into ‘Motorcycle Man’.

Dave then asks Captain if next song ‘Wake the Dead’ is about the Damned and this is often a feature of Damned shows, the humour and quips between Dave, Captain and the rest of the band.

After that great tune (see the album review for more about it) we have the stomping ‘Leader of the Gang’ complete with a roadie dressed partially as someone from the Glitter band. The song is a clever look back at a particular time with a distasteful ending, but I think the latter meaning in the song is somewhat overlooked by most of the crowd as unlike myself, this is their first time hearing it. However like ‘Neverland’ from ‘Grave Disorder’ it is thoughtful, I really like it and it was good to hear it live where it could easily become a regular in the setlist (although there is a lot of stiff competition for a spot in that list!)

The wonderful ‘From Your Lips’ follows, but by now the crowd are somewhat dazed by all the new material and their pace has slowed a bit.

Captain and Dave then do some Brian Jones wordplay before thanking original member Brian James for what he started and then smash straight into the buzz saw that is ‘Born to Kill’ from the debut album. The crowd get straight back into it and how can you not, what a great powerful tune that is brilliantly delivered.

With no time to grab our breath it’s ‘Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow’ from the ‘Evil Spirits’ album. Proof, if it were ever needed, that the newer material can stand alongside the older classics.

Then, complete with full introduction, it’s the double header of ‘Love Song’ and ‘Machine Gun Etiquette (Second Time Around)’. This is really the Damned on full throttle and is sheer bliss!

The set then finishes with a frantic ‘Neat Neat Neat’ complete with a brief homage to ‘Ballroom Blitz’ midway through.

What a fantastic set, the crowd are breathless, but still manage to make some noise and then it’s onto the encore.

First we get the big hit that is ‘Eloise’ and that’s followed by the even better ‘Smash It Up’ and the band leave the stage. However that is simply not enough and they return again to give us a final song from the new album, the tremendous tune that is ‘Girl I’ll Stop At Nothing’ and smash it completely out of the park with perennial favourite ‘New Rose’. The band make their good nights and finally depart the stage.

The Damned have played yet another fantastic set. True, there is a lot of music (11 of 12 songs) from the new album and I had the advantage of knowing them all, something the rest of the crowd didn’t except for those two tunes already released on YouTube. However much of material slotted seamlessly into the set and it was brilliant to hear them all live. There’s little doubt in my mind that Darkadelic is one of the Damned’s best albums as it’s rammed with memorable tunes that turn themselves to the live stage easily. Something the band definitely proved tonight. Conversely of course, it meant there was less of the crowd pleasers from the older albums, but I am sure once the Damned tour again the set will contain much more of a mix from all the albums or better still they could play for even longer!

In conclusion, go buy Darkadelic and go see the Damned next time around, as they are quite simply a great British band that deserve our support and recognition for all the great music they have produced. They might be labelled ‘punk rock’ but they really are much more than that, they are a brilliant and essential band to enjoy.

Buy ‘Darkadelic’ now and play it at your sibling! (If you know the reference, then you know)

From the upcoming album ‘Darkadelic’ (April 28th) Access it here: https://damned.lnk.to/darkadelicID!MV

Follow the latest news on The Damned and ‘Darkadelic’ here:

The Damned on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialDamned

The Damned on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eternally_d…

The Damned on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thedamned

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