Maid for Pleasure

At long last there’s a Damned tour with an album to promote! It’s been 7 years since the last studio album (’Grave Disorder’) and the prospect of hearing some new material has brought back some of the excitement that has been missing somewhat in recent years. ‘So Who’s Paranoid?’ has received plenty of positive press with many citing it as their best work since the early 80s.

The M Club in Crewe is a great venue, purpose built and large with a good stage and universally great views. The only downside is that Crewe has never been much of a rock & roll town and whilst there’s a good few hundred in it’s a long way off capacity. Crowd numbers never seem to bother the ever amusing Captain Sensible though and he’s on good form tonight, constantly interacting with the crowd and displaying good enthusiasm for the newer songs.

There’s a good mix of songs in the set tonight and it’s great to see that the vast majority of it has had a much needed revamp. We’ve been very critical of late that even the newer songs from the last album had been dropped, putting the band in the dangerous position of becoming little more than a nostalgia act; so tonight it’s exceedingly refreshing to hear no less than five tracks from the new album and the welcome of return of ‘Democracy’ from Grave Disorder. Of the new songs it’s not surprising that ‘Under the Wheels’ is the highlight, standing up well alongside the back catalogue and already well on the way to classic status. The 13 minute epic ‘Dark Asteroid’ gets a full work out too, which may have been too much alongside ‘Curtain Call’ but thankfully the latter is a shortened version. ‘Diamonds’ is even introduced as ‘pop music’ and is perhaps a measure of how far removed from their original punk sound they are as a band these days although to be fair they’ve been flirting with it since the early 80s. It’s still as lyrically embarrassing as is it is on record but alongside the guitar being too quiet for the usually barnstorming ‘Love Song’ it’s really the only downside in an otherwise vibrant performance.

Vanian looks to be re-energised and indeed the whole band seem to have an enthusiasm about them that has been somewhat lacking in recent years. They have retained the cover of Love’s ‘Alone Again Or’ but tonight even that sounds good alongside the old classics of ‘New Rose’ (which sees the crowd at the front going suitably crazy), ‘Neat Neat Neat’, ‘Fan Club’ and ‘Ignite’. During the elongated psychedelic ending to ‘Dark Asteroid’ Sensible and Monty even get given their own floor toms to beat and it makes for a welcome change of pace. The encore sees the return of ‘Stretcher Case Baby’, an impromptu ‘Perfect Sunday’ (another new song shaping up to become a fan favourite) and of course a rousing rendition of ‘Smash It Up’.

Just as the new album made me enthusiastic about listening to The Damned again, so the introduction of the new songs to the set has made me enthusiastic about going to see them live again. Tonight is probably the best I’ve seen them for some time and it’s great to see a band that is so underrated on the wider scene proving that they deserve better.