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Punk Rock Plexi-glass: The Damned Live in Wales

Posted by January 18th, 2008 No Comments »

Alive & Kicking: The Damned Live @ The Sin City Club
Swansea, Wales
December 13, 2007

I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of classic late ’70s, early ’80s punk is patchy at best. I know the essentials — your Black Flag, Clash, Pistols, Ramones, and Buzzcocks — but the rest I know mostly from seeing their patches on punk rock jean jackets over the last couple decades. I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I’m not claiming to be punk, either, punks.

Still, when fairly legendary punks The Damned made their way to my new town, I figured I’d do just as well to check it out. Sure, they’re old now, but I’ve seen more guys over sixty pull out their knives than youngsters have. Maybe it’s coincidence.

Anyways, my date and I arrived just as the show was kicking off. It was loud and surprisingly clean sounding. I couldn’t tell whether the almost compressed guitar sound was the band’s fault or the venues, but combined with the nightclub feel, added a surreal arena rock vibe I wasn’t expecting. That and keyboardist Monty Oxymoron’s curly hair and echo-ing piano, which was raised up on the stage behind some sort of plexi-glass barrier.

The Damned

The Damned

The whole thing struck me as kinda prog, and pretty weak. Seriously, your band is called “The Damned,” I don’t care how old you are, you don’t get a barrier unless it’s chicken wire.

Fortunately, the guys were on it, playing a tight mix of their faster stuff and their slower, more “psychedelic” moments. They were clearly enjoying themselves, grinning and flipping shit to the crowd, which was a heady mix of graying Welshmen in thick jackets and beards and scraggly young punks and metal heads. There were a few girls there, but most of them looked like someone’s date.

The Damned were clearly at their best—and the crowd was most into it—when they were rocking full bore, with sped-up chuck berry riffs and Dave Vanian’s vocals trotting along at a good speed.

The highlights were saved for the encore, when they played “Smash it Up” (the song I actually knew the words to) and “Little Miss Disaster,” during which the crowd turned into a whirlpool of swinging leather jackets and sweaty bodies. I stayed back and drank my beer; a sign I’m either older and smarter, or just an alcoholic. Or both.

The band could have played longer and they could have played harder, but they were playing for their fans and their fans ate it up.

As for myself, I could see why they kicked up a storm back in the day, and why people still crowd into rooms to see them. I even considered getting a patch, but the bar was still open and I needed another drink.

As evidenced by his alcoholism, Graham Isaac is a long-time Nada contributor. He is currently stationed in Swansea, Wales.

Damned if you don’t: Also be sure to check out our Classic Nada interview with Dave Vanian.

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