Headliner: The Damned
Support: Wurst Nurse
Venue: The Triffid, Brisbane
Date: 23rd August, 2019
Review by Rob Garry
Photos by Tam Schilling
What can you say about The Damned that already hasn’t been said a million times before? They were the first punk band from the UK to release a single, “New Rose”, release an album, “Damned Damned Damned”, and to tour the United States. One of the instigators of the entire “punk” genre, yet any exploration of their output post 1980 shows a band not afraid to push the boundaries. While many of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, the Damned are, for lack of a better term, the last men standing. Question is, has The Damned still got “it”? Are they still a force to be reckoned with? The answer, unsurprisingly, is a resounding YES!!
Taking the stage with the proclamation of “We’re still alive!”, the crowd was sent into a further frenzy with the announcement that tonight’s proceedings would include the playing of their classic 3rd album “Machine Gun Etiquette” in its entirety. As the first glorious notes of the instrumental intro to show opener “Love Song” rung out and Mr Vanian asked, “What’s Happening?”, it was evident immediately that this was going to be a lesson on how it’s done. Then “Second Time Around” into “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” and I was already thinking, “Well this is amazing!!”.
Vocalist Dave Vanian, part Casanova, part Dracula, sounds as good as he ever has. Clad in black leather and wearing shades, just his mere presence commands your attention. Vintage style microphone in hand, he has a theatricality about him which is mesmerising. A reference to the deplorable actions of Rolf Harris preceded “Anti Pope”. “These Hands” is as close as you are ever going to get crossing punk with German Oom-Pah music. I’ve always thought this was an odd song in the context of the album, yet it illustrates perfectly that the band weren’t interested in staying in the same lane musically from early on. It’s also the moment in the set too that I started to truly think of the brilliance and scope of MGE.
Returning bassist Paul Gray (who played with the band during their “Black Album” and “Strawberries” era) proves his inclusion is not just for the sake of nostalgia, he held down the bottom end beautifully. And of course, there is our dear Captain Sensible, the red beret wearing larrikin who reminds us all our favourite drunken uncle. Funny, witty, crass, but more importantly more than any of these things, still one hell of a guitar player. One minute he’s playing a scorching rendition of the MC5’s “Looking at You”, next minute he’s lamenting over the fact he’s burned through all the ‘Happy Talk” (the Captain’s chart topping single from 1982) money and he’s living in a Council flat in Brighton.
It’s a big ask to arrange a set after the complete performance of what many people would say is their seminal work. The band, naturally, did it beautifully, kicking off with “History of the World” from “The Black Album”. “Standing on The Edge of Tomorrow”, from last year’s brilliant “Evil Spirits”, proves that this is a band that can still write a killer song. “Ignite”, with its chants and breakdown, was nothing short of stellar.
Keyboardist Monty Oxymoron unfortunately was the victim of gear gremlins throughout the evening. Clearly frazzled, the Captain led chant of “Monty’s a Wanker!”, while obviously not helping his technical difficulties, provided some levity to the situation. The problems did however lead to the inclusion of the brilliant “Disco Man”. And let’s be honest, it doesn’t get any better than the left right uppercut combination of “New Rose” into “Neat Neat Neat”.
A band in the fourth decade of existence this band has no business still being THIS good. Tonight, proved that the Damned are not only surviving, but indeed thriving.