Having seen the Damned play well in excess of 50 times in all sized venues and festivals all across the land with various line ups and with varying end results to my evenings this was another of those must-attend shows from the never-ending list of must attend Damned shows from Original line up to seeing them perform with not on or two Damned bass players but four on stage at the same time to anniversary shows of varying years service in Circus tents to prestigious shows at the Roundhouse, Royal Albert Hall and Town and Country club to this the latest and most audacious project. The Damned putting on a show at the Palladium in London on a school night with a thousand vampires and a troupe of Circus freaks performing whilst the band plays. What could possibly go wrong?
On my way to the venue, I reminisce about the time Vanian didn’t turn up in Cardiff and how far we seem to have come from that shambolic night and what on earth was about to unfold. I expect the unexpected as far as the Damned goes because whatever we thought might have happened was probably always going to be wide of the mark but with Hammer Horror and Circus of Horror on board at least they wouldn’t let the curse of the damned fuck this one up could they?
We emerge from Carnaby Street to the rear of the venue where the horse-drawn Hurst resided after the funeral procession and entered the prestigious sold-out venue and as we took our seat (yup seats) the circus of Horror were being put through their paces as they swallowed swords of varying lengths and swung on trapeze by their teeth or contorted their bodies into unimaginable shapes we witnessed the elaborate stage set that was more in tune with the likes of Dio or Iron Maiden but this was The Damned and immediately you knew this wasn’t going to be just another live performance by a band I’d loved all my life pretty much.
Before Sensible, Gray, Pinch (sat atop of the castle entrance) and Monty took to the stage with elaborate makeup and costumes and immediately you knew this was going to be something else, something altogether different from the norm, something you hoped it was going to be – not just another great set but a show, a performance, something out of the ordinary. , A show so totally Damned like.
The opening song of the evening’s act one was the haunting ‘Beauty Of The Beast’ and then bang! ‘Wait For The Blackout’ was introduced and Vanian entered the set looking every inch the Vampire he’s spent his life preparing for. Hammer Horror had their man prepped and looing the part with his badger strip back for the evening as he proceeded to prowl the Palladium stage as if he had done so for the last few decades. A natural performer in his oils it would seem of course he dreamt up this evening – this was Vanians night.
‘Plan 9’ followed quickly then it was time for the last single and the backdrop screen was providing some superb footage and the lighting was exceptional giving these songs the drama they deserved this evening. ‘Grimly Fiendish’, ‘Dr Jekyl’, ‘Shadow Of Love’ all sounded excellent and then it was time to Ham(mer) it up with haunting renditions of ‘Absynth’ with added trapeze artist swinging by the hair followed by ‘Under The Floor’ I have to admit when they get stuck into the Gray era of ‘Strawberries’ and ‘The Black Album’ I’m more than happy. Of course we had ‘Nasty’ and ‘Eloise’ complete with a string quartet (no expense spared) but ’13th Floor Vendetta’ was amazing as was the finale to the first Act a stunning play through ‘Curtain Call’ complete with the violin duel that was exceptional theatre darlings as Vanian prowled and Captain used his lager can to great effect before the curtain indeed fell as act one was done and we could all toddle off to pay extortionate money for a beer and an ice cream before act two was to unfold and how could they possibly top that?
Top that they jolly well did. ‘Tightrope Walk’ opened up part two followed by ‘The Dog’ but where is Vanian? we can hear him but see him we cannot. alas, all is to be revealed as he emerges is Nosferatu full makeup from the long fingers to the bald head and big ears. Brilliant makeup and totally fitting with the evening. Considering the prosthetics I’m amazed how he even spoke let alone sing and the fact he forgot a few lines here and there was understandable. ‘Neat Neat Neat’ made way to the biggest twist of the evening as they pulled off a blinding cover of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ for the middle section of ‘Neat’ but this still wasn’t panning out as a typical Damned encore if you like sure they did ‘New Rose’ and ‘Love Song’ but they also added a vamped cover of ‘People Are Strange’ before ‘Smashing It Up’ before finally calling it a night with the new song from the new compilation ‘Black Is The Night’ and after a final bow and a few words of wisdom from the departing Pinch we left via the exits and streamed out into the cold London night air having witnessed the craziest most daring evening of Damned entertainment in all their years of making noise noise noise.
I’m glad I made the effort to attend it was indeed one of those special nights it wasn’t a typical gig it wasn’t your typical setlist but it was your typical Damned experience. I’m sure there will be more Damned gigs to come where we can all throw beer down our necks and pogo to Machine Gun Etiquette and marvel at ‘Fan Club’ but tonight they did something different and my God they bloody well pulled it off! Still original, still loud, still the best and still The Damned! Now, as pinch succinctly put it as his last words as a member of the band, “Now Fuck Off!”
Author: Dom Daley
picture of Vanian Nosferatu used by kind permission from Dave Mayes.