Skip to main content

Words by Stephen Shelverton

Photography by Paul Blackburn @wysiwyg.pix

Full gallery HERE

I am late to The Damned party, only by about… 46 years. I’ve committed The Damned to regular playlists in the last year. The irony they launched in 1976, 12 months before I did, is not lost on me either.

The 1977 wunderpunk album of ‘Damned Damned Damned’ with that phaat bass intro lick is fresh!!! See, punk doesn’t age like other genres; it saturates, festers… metastases into relevance every generation, and that album is just as relevant now as it was at the height of punk hysteria in the 70s.

The zig-zag of musical influence transcends the generations between The Damned and every act that has brushed against them.  It started with a very short and well-gnawed umbilical cord to early touring partners – the Sex Pistols. Fast forward to the twilight period of their career to the likes of Brisbane band The Crypt Daddies, who have osmotically absorb The Damned’s musical influence via perfectly manicured mohawks. This is a punk hand-me-down legacy; now that’s fucking exciting.

Being a new fan isn’t bad, I now have 12 studio albums to wrap me up in bed each night, like clingwrap sheets filled with warm KY Jelly. What better time to jump on the touring bandwagon than the last Australian tour and with the original lineup?

The Damned are the collective alias of Dave Vanian (vocals), Captain Sensible (guitar), Rat Scabies (drums), Paul Gray (bass) and Monty Oxymoron (keys) that have promised a reflection on the delicious goodies from the albums – ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’, ‘The Black Album’, ‘Strawberries’, with a couple of off hinge spares too such as the delectable ‘New Rose’. GCL reported that The Damned 2023 tour was so enjoyable they wanted to come back as soon as possible, and would do so with the princes of Australian Punk; the Hard-Ons as support act; yet another band that have escaped my gig consumption. 

Feeling flustered, I sought the direction of an ‘Old-Skooool Punk Aficionado’; the notable graphic artist/musician Ben Brown, AKA Mentalben. Ben is historically linked to the music industry, with a bulging portfolio of exquisite art work, such as the 2024 QOTSA tour posters, and his punk band Hellmenn.

I asked Ben on his opinion of both bands and artwork he has created for them over the years … “I did a street Press run for The Damned in the early 90’s…I’d love to do more for them- ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ was one of the first Punk records I got into right away…I’ve done a fair bit for the Hard-Ons over the 80’s/90’s… tour posters, t-shirts logos etc… Ray Ahn was one of my biggest influences as an artist, he was so DIY. A real do-er. He just did his crazy fucked up art and didn’t care what people thought. It was very inspiring. Ray, Peter ‘Blackie’ Black and Tim Rogers have been good mates of mine for over 30 years, Murray Ruse is a top bloke too… I love doing art for the Hard-Ons, because they are true legends.” (check out Ben’s 2018 tour poster, and his amazing work here

Eventually, the doors opened at The Tivoli, and I marched onward with static electricity coursing through my veins…I am breaking my Damned/Hard-ons cherry tonight and I am pumped!  I say hi to the wonderful Jo on the merch stand, selling some pretty neat stuff, including packets of used bass strings signed by the band!

While buying a beer (with Bens words “true legends” ringing in my head) I had a chance meeting with the enigma of Aus music Tim Rogers! We discussed recent You Am I gigs, a shared admiration for DZ Deathrays, while supporting The Darkness tour, and the highly talented Cathy Diver band that supported You Am I in Hobart recently. Tim shared the fate of various record stores all the while with genuine softly spoken charm and a VB in hand. Tim credited his (above mentioned) friend Ben, detailing they’d shared many stages over the years. Tim emphasised his excitement to support The Damned tonight. On that, we cheered beers, and he set off to the stage, like the graceful gent he is.

Tim is a supreme entertainer and has slipped into vocals with the Hard-Ons in 2021, giving them the 150% that he is known for. He showed it straight up with the Apartment For Two (off the ‘Ripper ’23’ album) and reached back to 2003’s thrash punk splendour of Punk Police, then back to the future…ish with 2021’s Hold Tight. The set was laced with comedic interactions such as Ray buying new short shorts for the show without pockets, leaving him nowhere to put his picks…don’t worry he found somewhere else to place them (don’t ask) after all, “what would Stiv Bators do?”

Tim blessed Blackie with the title: “hardest working songwriter in Australia”. That’s a fair call; they’ve got near on 40 years of consistent performing and 14 studio albums. Blackie returned the favour playfully by stating how excited he is to be here, recalling that he first met Captain Sensible in the early 90’s, and at that time Tim was already in his late 30’s! (Cheeky bugger!) Murrays epic drum breakdown on Back Pack Sweat, may have been the sign to remove shirts. Tim still rocks it with minimal body fat and is not afraid to go fully Iggy Pop. All the while, Blackie’s restrung guitar resembled a fuzzy pineapple with untrimmed strings spilling out everywhere, Ray’s bass dangles around his knee cap height. They just make it look effortless and fun as hell. The set contained several of the Tim vocals era, ending on the Bad Bad Temper To Match. I’m not going to tell you all the songs on the stonking 13 song set, you’ll have to go see them yourself!

The Damned is a band of firsts; first Brit punk band to release a single, to tour the USA, to break up and reform. Tonight, they rocked a 23 song setlist! Dave Vanian has always styled it to the 9’s. Tonight was no exception sharply dressed in a raven black three-piece suit, crisp white shirt, cufflinked (of course) black gloves, Ray-Bans and matching fedora – full character immersion into the Invisible Man. A story goes that Dave was once seen in overalls doing repairs to his bike. Bandmates excitedly thought Ahaa! Finally, they’d caught him dressed down. Dave disappointed them once he removed his outer garments to reveal a perfectly pressed suit underneath!

Captain Sensible, snug in his trademark red beret, and highly prised striped shirt emblazoned with Neat Neat Neat. Punters were overheard asking for these shirts on the merch desk (no such luck). Rat Scabies was tucked away in a perspex booth enveloping his drum setup in a bass drum enclave. Paul Gray rocking aviators, and black beret. The animated Monty Oxymoron in a skull themed matching ensemble, serving as the evil overload of the ivories.  The Damned can lay claim to both punk influences; inflowing from the dawn of goth rock, and the undeniable electric legacy of hardcore punk they spawned. The costumes on show in the audience reflected both sides, including full costume re-enactments of the ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ album cover, two-foot high mohawks, leather suits, and sprinklings of berets and battle vests.

Two sticks of gelignite Ignite the set off! The perfect to song to establish a dramatic start, with wailing guitar, pulsing drums and Dave’s operatic vocals stating “The night is in my veins, we’re going to have some fun tonight” He was not wrong. Captain Sensible informs us that Wait for the Blackout is about being thrown out of hotels. But it was all Dave Vanian’s fault. Apparently! History of the World (Part1) monty was about to combust, and Paul’s bass… ooooof!!!! He should be levitating it was that vibrant.

Gun Fury (Of Riot Forces) was up next; “I’m madder now, than we wrote that.” adds captain Sensible. Melody Lee sets off to perhaps calm the good Captain, that lasts for the intro at least. Generals is the signal for a couple next to me to dance. Stranger On The Town, with that bass!!!! (I can’t help it, I’m a hack bass player, and Paul Gray is in my top 3). The strategically stacked layer of sound and lyrics to match with “Did you ever see a man turned inside out?” Plan 9 Channel 7 has the one person in front of me tugging on their red beret and hyper ventilating in angst… I’m just going to move a bit to the right.

Paul Grey’ bass on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is still reverberating through me. It is like a rubber band through time and space – are his bass strings made from moulted Martian meteorites??! Vanian wears a clown nose for Beware of the Clown. When the guitar tech places one on Captain Sensible’s nose (while playing) it gives him license to menace the security at front of stage in friendly mock gestures, they both laugh over it together. The Shadow of Love has Vanian musing “hmmm I think we are sitting on 1982/ 83, Cro-Magnon man has emerged”. This is another of the vaudevillian goth drama songs his voice excels at with operatic baritone range. He really is the Phantom of the Opera, without the hideous face and general creepiness.

Embarrassing misheard song lyrics admission here- I kept thinking Dozen Girls was about purple underwear, hahaha! Its… thermal underwear, so the context of that song is very different to me now. But the mad Monty keyboard thrash that accompanies this song made me feel like it was ok to share this with you. Captain Sensible credits Brian James, as they wouldn’t be there without him and “…now he is sitting at home with his feet up, while we are slogging our guts out!” 

Fan Club is a throw-back track to the early days, with buzz saw sounds and flurries of guitar builds,  sitting right on that forked road of punk thrash and rock.  The Invisible Man is a relatively new addition to The Damned discography, again capitalising Vanian’s theatrical presence, with his crazed demonic cackle opening the track for the stage version.

Noise, Noise, Noise calls for the loyal crowd’s interaction – “Heroes…. Zeros” perfectly and gleefully amplified the love this dedicated fan base has for The DamnedCaptain Sensible is loving the crowd engagement chiming in “Ladies and Gentleman, everyone else…. Hey man, what’s happening? Here’s ‘A Love Song’.” I watched someone on the balcony swaying while singing the whole song with her eyes closed, in the comfort of a time capsule of thoughts.

After the glorious thrash paced Second Time Around, which was pure adrenalin for Rat Scabies as he belted and melted the tubs for that lightening 1:46 – he squeezes in a breath before the next track. Neat Neat Neat is followed by Baby Please Don’t Go with a medley that diverges into a humming solo from Vanian, pausing to share the that the next song, Smash It Up was written in dedication to his good friend Marc Bolan’s tragic passing.

Captain Sensible asks “Should we smash it up like we did in the old days? I liked getting kicked out of hotels and sleeping in the gutter.” Curtain Call plays and Captain Sensible states “we’ve still got it…you bastards, and so have you!”  There’s a short break before Vanian returns with a bunch of apricot-coloured roses to give the audience while belting out the famous New Rose. This is the glorious cavalcade of bass drums we came here for tonight. Captain Sensible uses a beer can to add a muting effect on guitar, and then throws it into the crowd (he ensures the recipient wasn’t injured too, what a nice fella).

Captain Sensible is beaming with happiness thanking the Brisbane audience. Vanian chants that there is only one punter with a red beret. To which the wearer throws the beret on stage. In true punk style Captain Sensible blows his nose on it, then proceeds to wipe his arse with it also, before throwing it back exclaiming; “There you go now it’s got Covid and piles on it!” The crowd is in fits of laughter, and the wearer gladly puts it back on their head to the delight of everyone.

Dimmed lights with an eerie blue filter and a silence is attempted by Vanian only to be broke by a heckler “Ahhh there’s always one” he says, launching into Looking At You. Captain Sensible dutifully blowing giant bubble gum bubbles. The last song is over, the group politely bow to the audience, Rat Scabies runs out and bumps into Captain Sensible who is still at it with; “Oi that man stole my wallet!…We may be old but we still can play a few tunes… (ending on)… This one is for The Hard-ons (takes off his shirt) Fuck you I’ve still got it!”

They have absolutely still got it, and sounding that mint and entertaining, I can’t see them retiring any time soon, they are just too bloody good.

Thanks to Maric Media

Leave a Reply

Optimized by Optimole