Music for Pleasure
A cold Sunday night in December, North Wales. You could be forgiven for thinking (as indeed excellent support band Ruts DC did) that this was going to be a bit of a non event but The Tivoli in Buckley is well known in these parts and within the space of fifteen minutes the venue fills up to near capacity.
The Damned have nothing new to plug (a Captain Sensible side project aside) and in the past this has led to them coming across as slightly jaded and lacking edge. There is no danger of that tonight however and if anything they have been hungrier and more energetic in the last two years than at any point in the preceding twenty!
Starting with the excellent gothic anthem Sanctum Sanctorum doesn't prepare the crowd for the trio of early songs that follows. It's always great to hear songs that are seldom played and we are treated to a couple of them tonight with Don't Cry Wolf and Sick Of Being Sick either side of the smack in the face that is See Her Tonite. The sound takes three of four songs to come good but the performance is already good enough to carry it. Captain is on fine form both musically and verbally but it's singer Dave Vanian that steals the plaudits tonight; he really is like a man re-born of late, he has his mojo back and puts in a superb performance full of energy and vigour.
A little chronological six pack of songs from 1980s The Black Album and 1982s Strawberries is a welcome reminder of just how good The Damned were back then when they were arguably at their creative peak. The crowd are very vocal and appreciative but not very lively, with only a handful of die hards down at the front making any concerted effort to get everyone moving. It's unusual for The Damned but even set closer Smash It Up only brings a handful more into the half hearted pit. Not that it matters, everyone is enjoying it and the performance is as tight as you would expect.
It's good to hear a different song from Grave Disorder with Song.com getting a rare outing, as does The Eighth Day from 1985s Phantasmagoria. There is of course room for the classics with Love Song, New Rose and Neat Neat Neat getting the biggest cheers of the night. As usual there is room for a little fun in the encore with an impromptu version of Captain's solo single Wot!, during which Vanian looks rather awkward and uncomfortable and a rousing version of Ballroom Blitz (a 1979 b-side, which featured Lemmy on bass!).
Smash It Up inevitably brings it all to a close and it's been a very refreshing couple of hours with a great set list that spanned most of the back catalogue. The performance was top notch and The Damned consistently prove that they have the most to offer of any of the first wave of punk bands. The only gripe? They played nothing from the most recent album and although it was five years ago now, much as I love the older songs, I desperately want them to come over as being relevant and contemporary rather than a nostalgia act. That said, The Damned remain in a class of their own.