As we gathered slowly in the cavernous Hammersmith Odeon at the ungodly hour of half six the Italian trio Smalltown Tigers strode onto the vast stage and proceeded to deliver an energetic set of power pop punk rock with some great hooks and plenty of tunes The Smalltown Tigers seemed to be loving life. It’s a shame there wasn’t a capacity crowd in already as I think that would have helped with the energy of going on so early but it would have been a tick off the bucket list to tell anyone they’d played the famous place and with The original Damned. I think had it been in a small tight club these three ladies would have enhanced their reputation tenfold so until next time…
Next up was the ever-enthusiastic TV Smith & The Bored Teenagers who proceeded to waste no time in taking out two mics, getting tangled with a third in the bass player guitar lead but still managing to race around like a teenager. TV delivered a really good set with an impressive catalogue of songs always opening with ‘No Time To Be Twenty One’ which set the tone. Playing with boundless energy and class and ending with a rather splendid hattrick of songs in ‘Bored Teenager’, ‘Gary Gilmores Eyes’ and ‘One Chord Wonder’ leaving the stage to rapturous applause to a now swelling audience.
TV was followed by The Skids who again rose to the occasion with an impressive ten-song set that included (the U2 song) (I know I’m only yanking your chain) ‘The Saints Are Coming’ an excellent ‘Circus Games’ some memorable as did the Hits of ‘Yankee Dollar’, ‘Masquerade’ and the most excellent ‘Into the Valley’ Jobson dancing and some very amusing banter from the frontman as well. By now the venue was packed and everyone seemed in a great mood up for it and joining in which was fed back from the stage before playing tribute to brothers’ fallen as a worthy rendition of ‘Complete Control’ was covered and they thoroughly deserved their ovation as they left the stage.
Finally, the moment had arrived and a show they said could never happen was upon us and the excitement was building. Well, It was just about to bloomingwell happen. when these four walked off stage back in the turn of the 90s I thoguht like many (the band included) that was that, never to be repeated but sometimes if you dream hard enough those dreams can come true.
Now I know Damned fans can be a funny old bunch and famously hard to please but not this bunny, nope me I thoroughly enjoyed turning back the clock. It was exactly what I’d hoped it would be, the incendiary debut album with a healthy splash of ‘Music For Pleasure’ teetering on the right side of under-rehearsed and as garage as fucking possible. Fuckin’ beautiful! So they’re a lot older and Brian was physically a bit shaky but fuck me the man has magic in those fingers and a tone to die for. Rat was never a drum tickler; more a smash-and-dash player who played with his heart on the inside of that snare he always felt his way through songs knowing when to give it some (al a Moon) and when to lay back and shuffle and you never lose that if you’re one of the great. Rat Scabies is one of the greats and tonight he played like he was actually enjoying it and the realisation that fuck me – The Damned could play and more importantly, they had the tunes to go with the chops.
sure right from the off Captain and Dave looked like they were on top of the brief and were enjoying being part of history and for this to work there wasn’t time to fuck about or scratch old wounds this was a celebration that they have endured and triumphed in the face of adversity and competing with a pandemic this day had finally arrived and it was spectacular.
Now I’ve never subscribed to the misconception that ‘Music For Pleasure’ was a dud and on the back of the spectacular debut they’d run out of ideas and tonight I was overdosing on the record getting my fill of tunes from the horn-honking ‘Alone’ to the MO of ‘You Take My Money’ via the non-album tracks like ‘Stretcher Case Baby’ and the splendid ‘Problem Child’ they should champion that bloody record and tonight it got a fair airing.
Brian delivered the abrasive garage chops with tone and panache and plenty of volume whilst the much-underrated rhythm section of Captain and Rat held it together in fine fashion. So it was hanging on by a thread at times but that was always part of the appeal, wasn’t it? This was punk rock with a huge dash of Garage just like Their heroes The Stooges this band could go toe to toe and in my humble opinion give Iggy and the gang a TKO on the song front as a friend once said to me The Damned were his Beatles and I have to agree having seen them dozen and dozens of times over many decades this one seemed special, after the pandemic and shall we say disagreements this seemed special, Cathartic, emotional and just about perfect.
The band was smiling and actually looked like they knew this was the right decision and playing these songs again together was absolutely the right thing to do and that shone through in their delivery. Vanian must have struck a deal with Beelzebub as he looked as lean as he’s always done, stalking the stage, sometimes in the wrong key sometimes not, but who actually cared it was never meant to be anything other than four men hammering out some of the finest songs ever written, their place and time in music should never be a footnote to the Pistols and Clash but the other way around they were the first to kick this off and trailblazers they have always been and paying tribute to their achievements as those trailblazers the set was perfect with a fine balance of debut album songs – hell, they even smashed out a brutal ‘Stab Your Back’ which might have been the tightest song of the night. From opening with ‘I Feel Alright’ this was more than alright this was beautiful right through to ‘New Rose’ but not before they delivered ‘Pills’ and as they’ve done before it was a poignant ‘the LAst Time’ and into the night the four heroes went. That was emotional just like Rock and Roll was intended to sound. Raw, electric, and dangerous. Fuck I love The Damned, can we do this again sometime, please?
Author: Dom Daley