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LIVE: THE DAMNED with Nick Sheppard’s Yung Pomerians – Perth, 26 March 2024

| 28 March 2024 | Reply

LIVE: THE DAMNED with Nick Sheppard’s Yung Pomerians – Perth, 26 March 2024
Astor Theatre, Perth
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Pete Gardner

Let’s start with a spoiler: The Damned were everything a great rock band should be, tonight: tight as a sofa wedged up a flight of stairs, as ‘business up front and party at the back’ as a glorious mullet, and infinitely cooler. Their final (ever?) Australian show was one to remember.

First up was Nick Sheppard’s Yung Pomeranians, and what a treat they were. It is exactly 47 years to the day that Sheppard supported The Damned at The Malvern Winter Gardens with his outfit The Cortinas, aged just sixteen – six years before he’d join the post-Mick Jones Clash lineup.

With a set that leaned into some of the great covers The Clash recorded – Vince Taylor’s Brand New Cadillac, Junior Murvin’s Police & Thieves, Willie Williams’ Armagideon Time, The Equals’ Police On My Back (with a little of Del Shannon’s Runaway), Sonny Curtis’ (by way of Bobby Fuller) I Fought The Law – as well as a little Dick Dale, The Band’s Don’t Do It (sung by bassist James Turner), and more.

The old pro makes the ragged glory of their Stones-meets-New York Dolls vibe seem effortless, even coaxing a singalong out of the early arrivals.

“True story – the combined age of these two is less than mine! He’s eight and he’s twelve!” Boom! Tish!

The Damned hit the ground running with the appropriately titled high octane Ignite. There’s little preamble, just tight A.F. rock n’ roll, and if there’s still any animosity between drummer Rat Scabies and singer Dave Vanian or guitarist Captain Sensible, then it’s not brought on stage with them.

Vanian’s been a gravedigger, the King of the Goths, a 1920’s airman, and now he’s sporting a besuited ‘40s private eye or spy look, complete with three-piece suit, trilby pulled down low, and black leather gloves, singing into his preferred olde style microphone. The tie and jacket come off later, but the hat and gloves stay put all night, despite the sweaty heat. The look suits him, of course – the punks, like the New Romantics and Hair Metal bands all knew the importance of fashion, whether it’s a torn t-shirt and a safety pin in the ear, blow dried hair and pastel socks, a mic stand festooned with bandanas or Vanians unique looks.

His dulcet voice is as wonderful as ever, though it’s not done any favours with a muddy vocal mix nowhere near the high standards we normally receive at this beautiful 1915 venue.

The Damned have a strange and meandering discography. They were amongst the OG punks, of course – the first punk band to release a record on the planet, in fact, which we’ll hear much later in the night. Vanian has been the only constant through a myriad of lineup changes and back and forths, and along the way they all but invented goth rock, and bravely ventured into all sorts of nooks and crannies along the way, not least ‘60s garage rock, psychedelia and much more. They are, and I mean this with complete respect, a weird oddity of a band.

“Good evening,” Vanian says early on, then waves at the balcony. “Hello cheap seats.”

Captain Sensible, meanwhile, is more concerned with the décor. “Nice to have a bit of carpet on the stage. Posh. Up to our usual standards.”

With Paul Gray back in the fold on bass and Rat returned behind the drum kit, it’s the ‘classic’ lineup (or one of them), which recorded fourth and fifth studio albums The Black Album and Strawberries, but the set list spans the band’s entire career from that 1976 debut single to last year’s Darkadelic LP.

Accordingly, we get classics Wait For The Blackout and History Of The World Part I early on; relatively obscure album tracks Gun Fury, Melody Lee, Life Goes On; newer favourites Beware Of The Clown (Vanian donning a red nose for this Boris Johnson parody) & The Invisible Man; hit singles Eloise (an epic version of their goth classic which was Barry Ryan’s favourite version of his song) & The Shadow Of Love (ironically this country & western rhythmed tune was a top 30 hit for the goth/punk band) and a lot more besides.

The biggest cheers are reserved for the truly classic tracks from the first few albums: Stranger On The Town, Plan 9 Channel 7, Dozen Girls, Fan Club (introduced by Sensible as a tribute to band founder and early songwriter/guitarist Brian James, “without whom none of us would be here tonight”), Love Song, Machine Gun Etiquette (aka Second Time Around), Neat Neat Neat (with a snippet of Baby Please Don’t Go), Smash It Up.

The one addition to this newly reunited lineup is Monty Oxymoron, keysman extraordinaire and owner of one of the most impressive shocks of hair in the business. In addition to atmospheric keyboards throughout, beautiful intros for the likes of Melody Lee (a long way from their first incarnation as punk agitators), he does some great (in the broadest possible sense) theatrical Dad-dancing, bouncing around like a mad Frankenstein bring musical monsters to life.

The rest are mostly business-like – Paul Gray cool and casual in shades, Scabies a picture of concentration, Sensible unusually restrained. There’s not even a sign of his party piece Happy Talk. Possibly he’s distracted by some of his effects board not working properly, despite the repeated attention of his roadie. “All you guitarists out there know how essential these talent boosters are, right – mine don’t seem to be working tonight.”

An encore is inevitable and well deserved, despite the slightly mellow Tuesday night Perth crowd, and an edited version of Curtain Call (over seventeen minutes on side 3 of The Black Album, a little under six minutes tonight), a quick drum solo from Rat, and the song that started it all – that debut single, the blistering New Rose, fit the bill.

“Thanks Perth,” says Cap, “we finished with the song the Sex Pistols wish they’d written but didn’t!”

The house lights go on prematurely, as the band are soon back for one more – Rat stealing a moment at the mic “on so many levels, it’s good to be back” before their fiery and raucous cover of The MC5’s Looking At You, to finish an awesome night of rock n’ f’n roll with a thunderous climax.

Most bands use “final tours” as a cynical cash grab, only to return a couple of years later to the disgust of fans who feel duped. In this case, I sincerely hope that is the case – The Damned have been all too infrequent visitors to our town, and if this really is the last time in any incarnation, that’ll be a (damned) shame.

Set List:

Wait For The Blackout
History Of The World Part I
Gun Fury
Melody Lee
Stranger On The Town
Plan 9 Channel 7
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
Life Goes On
Beware of the Clown
The Shadow Of Love
Dozen Girls
Fan Club
Invisible Man
Noise Noise Noise
Love Song
Second Time Around (aka Machine Gun Etiquette)
Neat Neat Neat
Smash It Up parts 1 & 2

Curtain Call
New Rose

Looking At You

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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