Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Damned at the Gramercy Theatre

Dave Vanian
Born in Hemel Hempstead, England, David Lett changed his name to Dave Vanian in early life after working as a gravedigger – Vanian being a play on "Transylvanian." Vanian wore dark and otherworldly clothing both on stage and off. He and Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns) were members of the short-lived London-based band Masters of the Backside, which also included future Pretenders front woman Chrissie Hynde. Vanian and Sensible went on to form the Damned in 1975, one of the first punk rock bands and a proto-gothic band. The band split and reunited in various configurations many times, with Vanian the sole consistent member, but since 2004 the Damned has consisted of Vanian on vocals, Sensible on guitar, Monty Oxymoron on keyboards, Andy (Pinch) Pinching on drums and Stu West on bass. The Damned's 10th and most recent album is 2008's So, Who's Paranoid?.

New York area fans count on the Damned coming around every year around Halloween. This time, however, the band was celebrating its 40th anniversary with a two and a half hour set. For this tour, Vanian toned down his vampire-like appearance onstage, going on stage without chalk-white makeup and wearing a less formal suit and seeming no lacquer in his combed-back hair. The Damned moved through several genres over the decades, but tonight the band was clearly a speedy rock and roll band, far more polished than its early garage punk days. The current sound fell somewhere between Billy Idol and the Cult, with Vanian putting on his best Jim Morrison. Generally speaking, the set seemed to begin with some of the band's later, calmer songs and ended with furious songs from its earliest days. While the concert was 40 years removed from its days opening for the Sex Pistols, the Damned demonstrated that a pioneer band can move forward and still be connected to its past.

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