Wednesday, May 13, 2009
DAMNED DAMNED DAMNED
A beautifully summery Tuesday night at DC's Black Cat, and a chance to meet with old friends, catch up a bit, and revisit a favorite musical holdover from the seminal days of punk.
We totally missed Electric Frankenstein; I heard they were pretty good, and call me sentimental, but I love that name! The Bellrays were already on by the time we climbed the stairs with our beverages in hand. But we heard some fresh, raw metal/punk tinged with old school R & B, courtesy of vocalist Lisa Kekuala, somewhat reminiscent of Tina Turner fronting Rockpile, or maybe the Stranglers, after a few beers. The result was an unexpectedly pleasant amalgam one might consider almost contradictory, which instead came off as a hearty, raucous blend of disparate but complementary styles.
It was a great warm-up for the high energy performance that followed. The Damned arrived with all the confidence and poise you'd expect from their 30+ year run as one of the first (and best) punk bands ever to cross the Atlantic. Captain Sensible, clad in his ever-present red beret, welcomed an enthusiastic crowd, as Monty Oxy Moron (keyboards), and more recent members Stu West (bass) and Pinch (drums) settled in. Singer Dave Vanian, growling with authority, sprang onto the stage as the band kicked off with Love Song, still looking like an undead matinee idol, his otherwise jet black hair now accented by a shock of gray (one can only assume was natural) in the front, but fresh faced and full of gleeful energy. Soon a solid rendition of Love's Alone Again Or followed (which I never dreamed they'd play!), Vanian, Sensible and Monty substituting for the missing trumpet with a chorus of "bah-bah-bah's," which only added to the intimacy of the performance. More favorites, including Eloise, Antipope, New Rose, Neat Neat Neat (which segued nicely into a jam with the Doors' Break On Through, another rare treat for the faithful. Another highlight was a great rendition of Disco Man (with a great intro from the Captain discussing the 70's London disco scene that spawned them and the punk sound it inspired, a visceral pearl in a leisure-suited oyster choking on hot sand), Eloise, Ignite, Stretcher Case, and Curtain Call were all done in damn fine Damned tradition.
Playing a tasteful selection of some of their best songs from a long and well- documented career, the band kept a pretty frenetic pace throughout the evening. Captain Sensible warned us when songs featured on their most recent release "So, Who's Paranoid?" were coming, emphasizing that it was not an excuse to wander out for a smoke, or use the head, and he was absolutely right. The new material stacks up favorably with classic Damned, darkly moody and marked by the psychedelic nuances that they have displayed in every iteration of the band. Dr. Woofenstein was enjoyable, as were some of the longer (and more spacy) compositions, and featured a percussion jam with Dave holding up a drum for Monty. Of course, the encore ended with a spirited, manic Smash It Up, and we were out the door, and on our way back to the car.
E2 had skillfully copped the set list, which Vanian noticed missing much later, remarking that it was gone at least fifteen minutes after she had returned to our table, her prize proudly in hand! The crowd remained predictably appreciative but benign during the set, with the exception of some flashing boobs, which we missed from our perch in the back...And, somewhat surprisingly, I learned that the bar was admonished by the band not to allow any glass bottles on the second floor (apparently, some moe-rons still haven't figured out that musicians generally do not appreciate being hit with flying glass and don't find it enhances their performances) to prevent any untoward incidents. Do people still do that stuff to bands they expect will come back? Well, not last night, at least. So maybe we won't have to wait for years before their next visit!