The Damned – 40th Anniversary Show at The Belasco Theatre – Downtown Los Angeles
Words & Photos by Greg Jacobs
Let’s get one thing straight right up front: The Damned is a punk rock band, not a “goth” band. Yeah, sure, Dave Vanian (vocals) has cultivated his vampire look since day one of The Damned’s existence and the band has released some music for the dark side. But they are a punk rock band. The Damned have been doing things their own way since releasing the very first punk rock single in history (“New Rose”) in 1976.
That being said, the Belasco Theatre is a beautiful gothic theatre from the glory days of Downtown Los Angeles. Opened in 1926 as a playhouse, the Belasco has recently been hosting rock shows. The theatre has a few bugs to work out, like LIGHTING! It was really dark in there. Even the band were asking for more stage lighting (see, they are not a goth band). And upon exiting, the staff decided it would be a good idea to create a small opening between barricade fences to let the sold out crowd through, instead of simply opening the doors and allowing the crowd to flow out onto the sidewalk in a non-funnel-like manner.
Tonight was all about The Damned; no opening act required. They divided the show into two sets separated by a short intermission to allow the band and the crowd a little time to catch their breath.
Their sets were a reverse order retrospective spanning their entire career. They started with songs from more recent records – So, Who’s Paranoid? (2008) and Grave Disorder (2001) – which flowed perfectly into the more highly embraced songs from Phantasmagoria (1985) like “Shadow of Love” and “Eloise.” They ended the first half of the evening with “Ignite,” the opening track from Strawberries (1982), which set the tone for what was coming next.
After the intermission, they stayed with Strawberries and opened with Captain Sensible (guitar) on vocals doing “Life Goes On,” which lead into “Disco Man” from the Friday the 13th EP (again, not a goth band) followed by a pummeling of what I love about the Damned – songs from The Black Album, (1980) Machine Gun Etiquette, (1979) Damned, Damned, Damned (1977) Music For Pleasure (1977) and New Rose (1976).
They played every song you wanted to hear from “Smash It Up” to “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today.” They dedicated “Thank You/Fan Club” to Brian James, the original guitarist and mastermind of the band way back in the beginning.
The rhythm section of San Diego guy Pinch on drums and Stu West on bass were solid all night long. Monty Oxy Moron is one of the more animated keyboard players you’ll see and, they called in Jason Crane (aka JC2000) from Rocket From The Crypt, dressed in an undertaker top hat and tuxedo, to fill out the line up with his trumpet. Vanian and The Captain were referring to him as “Grimly Fiendish” and, at one point, Captain Sensible traded his trademark red beret for Crane’s top hat.
I feel lucky to be able to see Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian still doing their thing after all these years. 40 years down the road and they are still kicking ass and still doing things their own way. Keep your eyes peeled for tour dates coming early next year. Sure, you won’t get the 3 hour, career spanning, retrospective like we did, but you definitely don’t want to miss them.