Friday, October 31, 2014

The Damned at Irving Plaza

Captain Sensible & Dave Vanian
The Damned formed at the beginnings of the punk rock movement in 1976 in London, England, debuted onstage supporting the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, and in 1977 became the first British punk band to tour the United States. By 1978, the band had its first of many break-ups, personnel changes and farewell tours. Since 2004, the band's line-up has consisted of original members vocalist Dave Vanian (David Letts) and guitarist Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns), plus keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch (Andrew Pinching) and bassist Stu West. The Damned's 10th and most recent album is 2008's So, Who's Paranoid?

The Damned has a tendency to tour around Halloween (the band last headlined Irving Plaza in October 2011, part of its 35th anniversary tour), and it seems appropriate. Tonight, Vanian appeared gothic with a long black coat and white and grey make-up exaggerating his facial lines, Sensible wearing a red beret and a white sports jacket emblazoned with large black letters (spelling out "old age punk" and profanities), and West dressed in a black skin-tight fetish outfit. Songs like "13th Floor Vendetta," performed under dim blue lights, and Vanian's Jim Morrison-style crooning on "Curtain Call" had a spooky, ominous feel. The set was based out of an old punk sound, but taken in a goth direction for a hard to define and fairly unique sound. With no new songs to introduce, the Damned played a predictable set including "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", "Machine Gun Etiquette", "I Just Can't Be Happy Today", "Wait for the Blackout", "Smash It Up", "Neat Neat Neat" and other songs that had kept the band going through its earlier, creative period. It did seem like a retro show, but it was energetic, wild and colorful, all adding to the Halloween fun.

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