Having a Rockabilly band complete with stand-up double bass player and drummer may seem an odd opener for Punk veterans The Damned, but former Stray Cat drummer, Slim Jim Phantom, is no ordinary guy having strayed across boundaries with the likes of Motorhead`s Lemmy on many occasions. His passionate, fired up Rock `n` Roll clearly struck the right chord as Rumble, Runaway Boys and Rock This Town certainly rocked the Academy.
In a week where Neil Diamond, Elton John, Rush and Lynyrd Skynyrd all announced their retirements, it really brought home the realisation that many of the artists that we grew up with are nearing the end which makes nights like this all the more important. Not that the Damned are contemplating retirement mind you, far from it. Having recently celebrated their 40th anniversary they have their first album in 10 years, Evil Spirits, created with fabled producer Tony Visconti, due out very soon. Retirement and relaxing are very much off the agenda.
With original members Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible joined once again by one time UFO bassist, Paul Gray, from their early `80`s Black Album era, The Damned seemed fired up on the opening night of their latest UK tour.
With So Messed Up from their `77 debut kicking off the show, The Damned spent the best part of an hour and a half covering the whole spectrum of their catalogue. They may have been the first British Punk band to release a single, an album and tour The States but there`s so much more to The Damned than pure Punk.
Certainly, early renderings of the iconic New Rose and Gray`s rasping Rickenbacker bass intro to Love Song, stomped their Punk credentials loudly and proudly but the supreme Psychedelic Gothic ambience of Shadow of Love and melodramatic Street Of Dreams from their hugely underrated Phantasmagoria album, really showed a band stretching their wings while their glorious Pop cover of Eloise, could have been written just for them.
Lead singer Dave Vanian, ever the sinister English Victorian gentleman, could be a character from their very own Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, yet still possess that a rich baritone that seems at odds with his Punk roots.
Captain Sensible is the Ying to Vanian`s Yang complete with red beret and sailor suit, injects the English humour into the band that stops them becoming an over serious self-parody.
New songs Devil in Disguise and particularly the excellent new single, Standing On The Edge of Tomorrow contain that magical ingredient that keeps The Damned creative and vibrant. Not many bands can stake that claim 40 years into their career.
Neat Neat Neat and of course Smash It Up turn the heaving floor at the Academy into a mosh pit frenzy bringing a rich and varied set to a complete Punk Rock full circle.