Last week was Punk Week at Decibel. In the lead up to the Damned’s 35 Anniversary gig at the Roundhouse in North London, thanks to our friend and writer John Hitchcock, we were able to run a serialised ‘Story of Punk‘, which was very cool. Thanks again, John! And if you followed our #PunkWeek hashtag on Twitter you will have seen a bunch of fun facts and links to interesting to punk-related news. I went to the gig, and I planned to blog it off, so here is my review:
I’m at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm for the second time in a month – I was here to see the Horrors in October. I have been gradually drawn to the Roundhouse over the years – ever since I watched ‘The Doors Are Open’, which features footage of one of the two gigs the Doors played here in 1968. I now live a three minute walk away.
I am with two musician friends that I have met in the last couple of years through ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP, who also happen to be Damned fans. We all grew up with the Damned, but we all have different favourite albums, and different experiences relating to their music. The other two guys know the Damned’s debut album ‘Damned, Damned, Damned’ better than I do; I’m a bigger fan of their fourth long-player, ‘The Black Album’. Tonight the band are performing both albums in their entirety to celebrate their 35th anniversary. The place is packed with old punks, too old to pogo, but not too old to have a good time, and drink too much. Which is not a pretty sight in some cases.
Captain Sensible takes to the stage in his trademark ‘Machine Gun Ettiquette’-era look: pink furry jumper, yellow trousers, red beret and shades; and Dave Vanian follows in his casual-goth garb: tight black t-shirt, black trousers and shades. They both look great.
The band races through ‘Damned, Damned, Damned’; the singles ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ and ‘New Rose’ raise the roof, and the proficency with which they now play these songs is immediately striking. The Captain, who started out playing bass for the Damned, and by all accounts was never the best at either instrument, is now a total showman on the guitar, playing it Hendrix-style behind his back and even with his teeth during one or two of their toilet-flush song endings.
‘See you in 1980’, says the Captain, as the band departs the stage to make the costume changes necessary to go forth to the future passed. And when the band return it really is 1980. The world is a simpler place; I am an innocent 14 year old with just a mono radio-cassette recorder that is wired up to a record player, and a black and white portable TV, in my room. I’ve just got ‘The Black Album’ for Christmas and I am listening to it on the record player, which is lit by a red lightbulb that I bought in Woolworths. God knows what I am thinking? But, like tonight, I am no doubt responding to the energy and the darkness of it, and sub-cosciously it is helping to shape the man I will become. Its impression will last over thirty years. Its influence will stand me in good stead at times, and leave me disillusioned and depressed at others.
‘History of the World Part 1‘ and ‘Curtain Call’ send shivers down my spine. The synthesizer and organ break in the 17 minute prog-goth epic, ‘Curtain Call’, with added laser show, is mesmorising. Beats the red light bulb, anyway. I thought WU LYF’s church organ sounds were good the other night in Shepherds Bush, but they are not a patch on these. The band closes with ‘Disco Man’ from the excellent Friday 13th EP, ‘Love Song’ and ‘Antipope’ from ‘Machine Gun Ettiquette’, and their biggest hit, ‘Eloise’.
The Damned, like Stiff Little Fingers, The Stranglers and the Sex Pistols and others that continue to celebrate punk’s legacy, have mastered their instuments, and play with all the proficency that the ‘dinosaur’ bands they set out to overthrow did, back in the day. But as Johnny Rotten once proclaimed, “we don’t care!”. And we don’t care because when punk broke many of those gathered here were already fans of bands that demonstrated a certain level of musical profiency – like the Alice Cooper Band, Roxy Music and David Bowie. We just pretended for a while that we didn’t like guitar solos, musical virtuosity and showmanship. But we always have, and we always will.
Tonight, punk and showmanship go hand and hand; and we – the old punks – go lager-fuelled into the nostalgic night.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 at 12:52. It is filed under Blog, News and tagged with "punk week", "story of punk", metadata, music discovery, music metadata, music recommendation, Roundhouse, The Damned. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Comments are closed.