Henry Fonda Theatre, Hollywood.
September 5th 2105
By two o’clock in the afternoon there are punks and goths lurking in the shadows around the Henry Fonda, trying to find shade from the sweltering heat, all hoping to get a picture or an autograph. Some of them have travelled long distances just on the off chance of getting in to the sold out show, and a few will still be waiting outside when it’s all over. It’s kind of a shame that The Damned don’t really seem to appreciate it.
If you’ve seen Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead, Wes Orshoki’s movie about the band, – and you really should – then you’ll know what I mean. There’s a sense of bitterness throughout the movie, particularly from Captain Sensible, that The Damned never got the respect that they truly deserve, and that they should be playing far bigger venues than this. And, yes, to a certain extent they’re right, but it sure as shit beats cleaning toilets for a living. Besides, the Fonda is one of the last decent venues left in LA, and the whole point of The Damned – and of punk rock in general – is that you can get up close to the band, pressed up against the barrier at the front, getting all sweaty. At the very least, you should be able to see them from the bar. Who the fuck – apart from The Damned – wants to see The Damned at the Staples Centre?
I stopped counting the amount of times I’ve seen this band at around the 250 mark, and, of those, perhaps four or five shows weren’t all that great. That, in itself, is pretty impressive, especially considering numerous line-up changes and all that dodgy Edward The Bear nonsense. In recent years, however, The Damned have rarely been less than brilliant, and tonight is no exception. You don’t get a better start to a show that Love Song, Second Time Around and I Just Can’t Be Happy Today back to back, and from there we treated to a well crafted set that takes in the hits without being overly cluttered by them.
Of course, it was rather special when Damned Damned Damned and The Black Album were aired in their entirety on the last tour – or was it the one before? – and it would be fantastic is they’d do the same for the hugely underrated Music For Pleasure, but this evening we get more of an assortment, a little taste of everything from History Of The World Part 1 and 13th Floor Vendetta to Ignite, Stranger On The Town, and even that old Young Ones classic Nasty. In a way it’s a ‘best of’ set, without necessarily being the best of, and a reminder, if it were needed, that some of the favourites aren’t always the most obvious choices. Although, that said, it just wouldn’t be a Damned show without New Rose, Neat Neat Neat and Smash It Up, all of which come towards the end.
Next year is the band’s 40th anniversary, a monumental achievement for any band, let alone one like The Damned, and there really is no one else like The Damned. I’ll be right up the front. Unless, of course, Sensible has gone back to cleaning toilets.