Review + Photography by John McEvoy

Ever wondered what happens to old punk rockers?

Last night after I watched The Damned deliver a blistering 2 hour set at the Leeds O2 Academy, the answer was an emphatic ‘they’re doing fine’, thank you very much!

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First up at 8:00pm was Slim Jim Phantom (former Stray Cats drummer) who took to the stage with his current 3 piece rockabilly band, and they were warmly received by the crowd, who appreciated their 30 minute set which of course included a couple of old Stray Cats tunes. Who by the way are reforming and playing a gig in Las Vegas in April if you just happen to be in that part of the world. I have to apologise at this point as I didn’t catch the names of the guitarist and double bass player, but both were in fine form. If skiffle, rockabilly is your kind of thing, this trio are fine exponents and you really should look them up. They will be supporting The Damned for the remainder of the tour which runs through to 17th Feb at the London O2 Forum.

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Then it was the turn of The Damned to take to the stage, sadly I’m old enough to recall seeing them way back in 77 at the peak of the punk era and I vividly remember that performance. 40 years later, they have gone through several line ups and now Captain Sensible (lead guitar) and Dave Vanian (vocals) are the 2 remaining members of the original line up. The remaining band members are made up of Monty Oxymoron (keyboards) and Pinch (drums), along with their newest Paul Gray (bass).

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This was what the near sell-out crowd were waiting for, and the band didn’t disappoint. Their opening track ‘So Messed Up’ from their 77 album ‘Damned Damned Damned’ set the tone for the rest of the evening. It has to be said that both Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible who are now in their 60’s looked remarkably fit and well and clearly the rock and roll lifestyle suits them.

From there on, this was a set that took no prisoners and they proceeded to blast through their extensive back catalogue, taking the happy crowd with them. At one point there was even an attempt at a mosh pit, but I suspect age, and just being plain knackered soon put a stop to that one!

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Midway through the set they played ‘Eloise’ which for many there was a highlight of the evening, and it was good to see that Dave Vanian has lost none of his gothic menace and prowling around the stage continuously, he and still possesses a fine voice. Captain Sensible was, well, Captain Sensible, he clearly knows how to entertain the crowd. What struck me about him was that when I originally saw The Damned, he was the bass player in the band, and now in his role as lead guitarist he absolutely excels, and to this reviewers ears at least he never hit a bum note all night.

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My personal favourites ‘Smash It Up’ and ‘Jet Boy, Jet Girl’ were saved for their 2 encores and they ensured that the crowd went off into the night happy and looking forward to the next time the band are in town. I was lucky enough to photograph them as well, and it pleased me no end that Captain Sensible gave me the V’s early on in the set.

The Damned and Slim Jim Phantom are touring through to the 17th Feb so it’s not too late if you want to catch them. Trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Interesting fact: Did you know that The Damned invited both Sid Vicious and Dave Vanian to try out for the role of singer. Vicious unsurprisingly didn’t turn up, so Vanian was a shoe in, and the rest as they say, was history!

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Set list:
1. So messed up
2. Wait for the blackout
3. Lively arts
4. Silly Kid games
5. Standing on the edge of tomorrow
6. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
7. Anti Pope
8. Under the floor again
9. New Rose
10. Street of dreams
11. Love song
12. Shadow of love
13. Eloise
14. Gun Fury
15. Devil in disguise
16. Ignite
17. Dozen girls
18. Neat Neat Neat
19. Seagulls
20. Generals
21. Evil Spirits
22. Smash it up
23. Jet Boy, Jet Girl

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