1 Of The 2
The Damned were the first band I ever went to see play live at Birmingham Odeon back in 1985, so this feels a little like coming full circle as we head down to the O2 Academy. There's a very healthy turn out from the old faithful tonight, which shouldn't really be a surprise as we've been promised a complete run through of the first album 'Damned Damned Damned' and the 1980 classic 'The Black Album'. The latter offering an opportunity to see a rare outing for some album tracks that have seldom seen the light of day.
Despite the anticipation it's a bit of a lack lustre start to proceedings; Captain Sensible's guitar sounds a bit rough, quite harsh and trebly. Whilst Captain and bass player Stu West get quite into it, front man Dave Vanian doesn't really seem interested at all and his delivery is pretty flat throughout this part of the set. This transfers to the crowd and where you would expect a lively pit for the old classics there is minimal movement. Despite that it's good to hear some of those first album tracks that don't get much of an airing usually such as 'So Messed Up' and 'See Her Tonite'.
Thankfully everything changes for the second set, which features a complete run through of 1980 album 'The Black Album'. This is widely hailed as one The Damned's finest moments and saw them introduce really psychedelic and progressive moments alongside the more punky songs. There has clearly been some heavy practicing going on as much of the album is faithfully recreated and you realise what a remarkably musical album it is. The band seem re-energised and really get into the performance; Vanian visibly enjoys the more theatrical feel of these songs and from here on in his performance is thoroughly engaging. There really isn't a duff song on offer here from the upbeat 'Lively Arts' and 'Sick of This And That' to the slower and atmospheric '13th Floor Vendetta'.
Sensible takes vocal duties for 'Silly Kids Games' and it's one of the highlights of the evening with a mass sing along ensuing amongst the front rows of the crowd. Album closer 'Curtain Call' is pretty epic tonight, at seventeen minutes long it was an incredibly brave move at the time for a punk band but they got away with it and they carry it off with aplomb.
The encore consists of 'Eloise', 'Love Song' and 'Anti-Pope' and with the crowd still on a high after 'The Black Album' set it's a glorious end to the night. I can normally take or leave 'Eloise' but it sounds great tonight, whilst 'Love Song' quite rightly sees the front rows go nuts. As a one off it was fantastic to hear 'The Black Album' and it would be great if some of those songs remained in the set for future tours. With the most recent album 'So Who's Paranoid' being such a strong record and proving that The Damned still have much to offer however, I hope that they mix it up more next time out and prove that point.