The Damned were one of the original British punk bands, known for several firsts within the genre – notably, the first to release a single (1976’s “New Rose”), and the first to release a full-length album (1977’s Damned Damned Damned). While most of their contemporaries disappeared into the annals of music history years ago, The Damned have continued on – breaking up and reforming several times over the years, with members coming and going, and with numerous changes in style (going from punk, to goth, to pop, to an amalgamation of all of them), but in the end still going strong. The band marks the 40th year since their formation in 2016, and to celebrate, the current incarnation recently played several special anniversary shows, including two at the Gramercy Theatre in New York over Halloween weekend.
For a band in their 40th year, The Damned surprisingly still have more energy than many groups half their age. Founding members singer Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible are all over the stage, moving almost constantly as they work their way through one song after another. The current lineup, completed by keyboardist Monty Oxymoron (who joined the band in 1996), drummer Pinch (who joined in 1999), and bassist Stu West (who joined in 2004) has become one of the strongest in the band’s history. While anniversary shows are in many ways an act of nostalgia, the band themselves are far from a nostalgia act.
To prove that point, the band started their 35-song, three-hour long show with “Nature’s Dark Passion” from their latest album, 2008’s So, Who’s Paranoid? The band then worked their way backward through the catalog, hitting on nearly every album in their discography (with the notable exception of their second album, Music For Pleasure, and the somewhat less notable exception of 1995 oddity Not of This Earth). The absolutely packed sold-out room full of fans got treated to the opportunity to hear songs that the band hasn’t performed in years – including “The Limit Club” from 1981’s Friday the 13th EP, “Stranger On the Town” from 1982’s Strawberries, and “Sanctum Sanctorum” from 1985’s Phantasmagoria. Of course many of the hits were also included – “Smash It Up (Parts 1 & 2),” “Love Song,” “History of the World (Part 1),” “Nasty,” and “Shadow of Love,” to name a few. Jason Crane of San Diego punks Rocket From the Crypt joined the band to play trumpet on several songs, including “Grimly Fiendish” and the band’s cover of “Alone Again Or.” After finishing the show by playing through a full half of the songs from Damned Damned Damned, the band still wasn’t done, returning for an encore of their 17-minute long psych-goth epic from 1980’s The Black Album, “Curtain Call.”
While the band is celebrating their past, they’re not resting on their laurels. They have already announced plans to record a new album early next year (for which they are currently taking pre-orders at Pledge Music), and they will be embarking on a more extensive anniversary tour in the spring. The closest that tour is currently coming to DC is a stop at the Baltimore Soundstage on Tuesday, May 9th, and tickets are available now.