Life Goes On
There's something very fitting about The Damned playing Satan's Hollow on Friday 13th, the name, the dark gothic image of front man Dave Vanian and let's not forget they even released an EP called 'Friday 13th' back in the 80s. Usually found at the larger Academy 2 this is a welcome opportunity for the dedicated fan to get up close and personal and it's no surprise that tonight is completely sold out.
The stage is circular and due to the packed crowd I find myself actually standing behind keyboard player Monty the Moron! This is a little odd but the 'theatre in the round' approach actually works well as the mobile members of the band use every inch of the stage and whilst the view is limited in places either Vanian or Captain Sensible pop up at regular intervals. The sound is good and the tightly packed crowd enthusiastic, despite the stringent frisking and frequent notices displaying a multitude of 'Do not...' messages.
For the casual fan the first half of the set list tonight is choc full of classics from the thunderous opening of 'Love Song' and 'Machine Gun Etiquette' to the often overlooked 'Generals' and the riotous 'Antipope'. The problem with The Damned's set list over the last few years is that they always have a mellow section in the middle, which even though it only lasts three songs is usually three long songs and is at least one too many! Once again their version of Love's 'Alone Again Or' fails to inspire and whilst 'Life Goes On' and '13th Floor Vendetta' are fine album tracks they just don't work when coupled together in a live set. Thankfully it all picks up after that with old favourite 'History of the World' and a great rendition of 'Ignite' that has most of the crowd singing along in the chorus.
The classic 'Neat Neat Neat' gives way to the only surprise of the night (which would have been far more of a surprise had I not inadvertently read the whole set list pinned up by Monty's head!) in the seldom heard 'Stretcher Case Baby'. I'm initially excited on hearing this rarity but in reality it doesn't work too well, 'Sick of Being Sick' would have been a far better choice. The initial set finishes with the timeless 'Smash It Up' before they return for an encore of 'Curtain Call', 'Jet Boy Jet Girl' and the furious energy that is 'New Rose'. After a couple of lack lustre performances in recent years it's good to see the band back on form and at such close quarters.
However the crux of the problem still remains, The Damned are in serious danger of becoming nothing more than a nostalgia act. They played nothing from the last album (Grave Disorder), despite it being their best work since their 80s heyday and persist in playing sub standard cover versions when most fans would rather hear a lost gem from their own back catalogue or (shock horror) perhaps some new material! The one nod to more recent material came in 'Perfect Sunday' but by their own standards it's nothing to get too excited about and even that's a couple of years old now. The Damned will always have a devoted hardcore of fans and that their influence is now widely recognised is credit to their impressive back catalogue. With no new material on the horizon though you have to wonder just how many times the die hards will keep coming back for more of the same?