Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Damned's 40th Anniversary Tour Hits the Baltimore Soundstage



The Damned w/The BellRays & Ravengers
Baltimore Soundstage
124 Market Place, Baltimore, MD

"Ladies and gentlemen, how do?" 

(May 9, 2017) - It's a Tuesday night, but the Baltimore Soundstage is packed to the rafters with a horde of rock and roll enthusiasts of all ages and colors (except for clothing: a uniform Clubland Black - didn't you get the memo?) - to see the first and longest running punk rock band in the History of the World (Part 1): The Damned. In fact, it's their 40th Anniversary U.S. Tour, one that initially was set to feature all the songs from their first album, Damned Damned Damnedbefore the band decided instead to play fave selections from their back catalog. I'm glad they changed plans; although their debut is one of only two Damned LPs I ever owned (the other was 1980's The Black Album, plus I think Marc O'Connor made me of tape of their third - and best album - 1979's Machine Gun Etiquette, and I had their Christmas EP There Ain't No Sanity Claus), I think the "Playing An Album In Its Entirety" concept has run its course; see Buzzcocks, Devo, Megadeath, et al.)

Damned Damned Damned (Stiff Records, 1977)

Back in 1979 when I was in punk band called Thee Katatonix, our confrontational style (really just a front for musical incompetence - at least on my part) led some fans (also known as "victims" - it's a fine distinction sometimes) to liken us to the then-reigning Punk Rock Signpost, The Sex Pistols. (Perhaps you've heard of them?)

"Nah," I recall Kats singer-guitarist /lead assailant Adolf Kowalski saying in response to the comparison. "The Pistols are way more slick. We sound more like The Damned, 'cause they're not political and play really loud and raucous just like us." (Wait - we weren't political with songs like "I Sure Miss My Foreskin" and "I Hate DC"?)

The Damned released the first UK punk single (Stiff Records, 1976)

Almost 40 years later, The Damned still revel in playing loud and raucous music, but they also evolved into something bigger, better and more sophisticated after Captain Sensible switched from bass to guitar on Machine Gun Etiquette. The group added keyboards and a more overtly pop polish to the raw power exhibited on their 1977 debut album Damned Damned Damned. Sure, the Pistols got all the glory (and deservedly so - they were great!), but they were gone in a flash, done and dusted by the end of their ill-fated American tour that ground to a halt in San Francisco in January 1978. By comparison, the Damned were the true pioneers, a band of "firsts" in class. The Damned released the first-ever punk single on Stiff Records on October 22, 1976 ("New Rose" b/w "Help") - beating Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP by several months - the first punk LP (Damned Damned Damned in February 1977), were the first UK punk outfit to tour the States (April 1977), and were also the first UK punks to reform (after a brief hiatus following their second album, 1978's Music For Pleasure which, may the record show, contained a non-political song called "Politics").  And four decades later, they are still making Noise Noise Noise that's Neat Neat Neat!

Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible: Damned to keep the faith with the masses

Yes, original members Brian James (guitar) and Rat Scabies (aka Chris Millar, drums) are long gone, but Captain Sensible (Ray Burns when he's at home) and singer Dave Vanian are still piloting the boat along with additional crew, whose ranks now number dancing keyboardist (and Mark Volman lookalike) Monty Oxymoron, bassist Stu West (who replaced Vanian's wife, Patricia Morrison, after she gave birth to daughter Emily in 2004) and drummer Pinch (Andrew Pinching).

Monty Oxymoron and Stu West

Go West, Young Damned: The Captain and Stu make do

Monty as Monolith (awesome photo by Jennifer Beetz)

I Fall?
And the Captain still refuses to abandon ship; after a nasty fall from the stage May 4 in Toronto (as shown below - and no, it wasn't during of performance of the Damned Damned Damned song "I Fall"), Sensible sustained a broken rib and had to cancel a couple of shows in Montreal and Boston (since rescheduled to later this month).





But tonight he was back and, as befitting his unfortunate recent fall from grace, was resting his sore bones atop a nasty-looking (albeit glow-in-the-dark) toilet that looked like it was borrowed from the props department of Trainspotting. (By the way, the graffiti on the front of this throne was later revealed to say "The Eagles puked here"! I'm sure they won't be the last!)

40 years after their debut album, The Damned's career is far from being flushed down the drain. In fact, their popularity, like this toilet, overfloweth.

Fan Club: Children of the Damned
Among those in attendance this night were Skizz Cyzyk (of Garage Sale, Go Pills, Stents, etc., etc.), his sweetie Jen Talbert, Scott Wallace Brown (of Awkward Sounds of Scott & Skizz, Tralalas), Julie Smith and Greg Brazeale (of Go Dog Go!), Joe Maravi, Karen Karen, John Rouse, Laurie Rollins Anderson, Layne Garrett-Bosserman and her son Sean, Amy Pelinsky, MaryAnne Tom, Mike and Janet Ramsey, Johnny Alonso and Shane K. Gardner, whose photographs from the show are truly amazing - check out his Damned good pics at Rock N Roll Socialite.


Captain Sensible (Photo by Shane K. Gardner, Rock N Roll Socialite)

We tried to hang out with some folks but, being vertically challenged Ewoks, had to scurry about to find a spot where we could actually see the band. Wherever we stood, some girl in storm trooper boots or a 6-foot punk with an additional 6-inch high red mohawk would move in to block our view. Suddenly, I felt my neck locked in a half-nelson by someone's arm - turning around it turned out to be Adolf Kowalski, whose other arm was extended more gently around the nape of my wife, Amy Linthicum (his ertswhile classmate at Dundalk High).

Coffin Cuties Magazine

Adolf was there to interview the band with Mike Hearse of Coffin Cuties Magazine. Adolf is an "Image Consultant" with Coffin Cuties. I don't know what that means, but it gets him into big events like this, so who cares, right? Adolf had been there since 3 o'clock that afternoon, but hey, that's the price you have to pay if you wanna have Captain Sensible emerge from his trailer, toothbrush in hand, and greet you by spewing a big gob of blue toothpaste four feet in the air. (Adolf loved it - dental hygiene is important!)


Coffin Cuties cohorts Mike Hearse and Adolf Kowalski with actor-rocker Johnny Alonso

Coffin Cuties maestro Mike Hearse poses with The Damned

Adolf graciously extended his largesse to Amy and yours truly, and we joined him and his girlfriend Jennifer Beetz (a talented artist and ace photographer who took some great shots this night) up in the VIP Lounge to the right of the stage. We suddenly felt like Studio 54 royalty. And, more importantly, we didn't have to stand on tippy-toes to see the band!

Luminous Amy Linthicum Warner: "I like being this close. Now Dave Vanian can see my new striped rockchick jacket!"

We were near enough that we could get these up-close-and-personal shots of the Full Monty Oxymoron, a maniacal madcap maelstrom of boundless energy and impressive dance moves (check out his custom-cool choreography during "New Rose"):

Monty: Hair Up!


Monty: Hair Down!

Indeed, we were close enough to see the not-so-little jokes the roadies play on the band (as shown below).

The roadies got creative with their sweat towel origami. That sure looks like a giant white dick (wait, is that an oxymoron?)(No offense to Monty Oxymoron.)


Let's Wait for the Blackout
I had to work late that night, so we missed the two opening bands, but apparently that was no great loss (Skizz Cyzyk: "The last band was like a set of cliches. And they were all bad cliches!"). So we waited...for the blackout. We waited for...the Damned! And as the venue went dark, the opening chords of "Melody Lee" filled the air and The Damned kicked out the jams for the next 90 minutes with a well-selected program of songs representing all their phases over the last four decades, with an emphasis on Damned Damned Damned ("New Rose," "Neat Neat Neat," "Fan Club"), Strawberries ("Ignite," "Generals," "Stranger In Town") and especially Machine Gun Etiquette ("Melody Lee," "Love Song," "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," "Anti-Pope," "Machine Gun Etiquette," "Plan 9, Channel 7," "Noise Noise Noise," "Smash It Up"). They also added some spice to the mix with a cover of Love's "Alone Again Or" (from 1986's Anything) and Paul Ryan's "Eloise" (which they've really made their own now). The Captain even downplayed his larger-than-life presence by neglecting to include most of his popular solo career songs like "Say Wot" or his cover of "Happy Talk," though he did sneak in his cover of Elton Motello's "Jet Boy, Jet Girl" during the first encore (at least according to Setlist.fm).


The Damned get psychedelic thanks to Jennifer Beetz's photo wizardry (Photo by Jennifer Beetz)

I thought they also performed "Looking at You" and Amy thinks they may have done "Nasty" as well - or maybe our recollections just got a contact high from Jenny Beetz's psychedelic tinkling of that photo above? (Hmmm, as the President says, we'll look into that.) (The Baltimore Post Examiner review included "Nasty" in its list of songs performed. It seems individual recollections of this show follow a Rashomon model. I'm just saying...) Speaking of "Nasty," does anyone else remember The Damned playing it on the cult '80s Britcom series The Young Ones? It's worth reprising here:





And the Damned did slip a political snort into their set when Dave Vanian - looking these days like a cross between Timothy Carey and Ghoulardi and wielding a beautiful old-school microphone - dedicated "Generals" (from the Strawberries LP) to Our Commander in Grief.

Anyway, here's how the Damned's Baltimore Soundstage show went down, according to the folks at Setlist.fm (the Setlist Wiki) - though I think they missed a few that I added, like "Fan Club" (see video below), so maybe the order isn't exact (it's only rock 'n' roll, so let's not quibble over the details)...

Noise for Heroes/Music for Zeroes Setlist:
  1. Melody Lee
  2. Generals
  3. Disco Man
  4. I Just Can't Be Happy Today
  5. Alone Again Or (Love cover)
  6. Love Song
  7. Machine Gun Etiquette (Second Time Around)
  8. Street of Dreams
  9. Eloise (Paul Ryan cover)
  10. Ignite
  11. Stranger on the Town
  12. Plan 9, Channel 7
  13. Wait for the Blackout
  14. History of the World (Part 1)
  15. New Rose
  16. Neat Neat Neat
    Encores
  17. Jet Boy, Jet Girl (Elton Motello cover)
  18. Fan Club
  19. Nasty
  20. Noise Noise Noise
  21. Smash It Up (Parts 1 & 2)
  22. Anti-Pope
Following are some songs I know they played, because I taped them: "Noise Noise Noise," "Neat Neat Neat" and "Fan Club."

Noise Noise Noise:



Neat Neat Neat:


Fan Club:



As Mike Hearse put it, this show was seriously sick! Indeed, The Damned truly Smashed It Up!




And on our way out, we heard that the Orioles had battled back from a 4-1 deficit in the 8th (to Max Scherzer!) to beat the Nationals in the 12th inning by 5-4! Who says "I Just Can't Be Happy Today"? Not me. It makes me glad to say it's been a lovely day - and that's OK!

Many thanks to Adolf, Mike Hearse & co. for letting us hang with them. Be sure to check out the next issue of Coffin Cuties for a mother lode of interviews, reviews and pics of The Damned; for "sneak peeks," check out the Mike Hearse and Coffin Cuties Facebook pages.

Related Links:
Baltimore Post Examiner review
Damned Show: Rock N Roll Socialite
The Damned (Official web site)
Coffin Cuties
"Melody Lee" (SixtySecondsSteve video)
"New Rose" (mikeywolves1 video)
"I Just Can't be Happy Today" (mikeywolves1 video)
Captain Loves Bon Jovi & The Jam (mikeywolves1 video)

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