In my considered opinion going to see live bands is one of the finer things in life, and as such I try to do so as often as possible. Late last year I realised that my passion had possibly gone slightly too far after spending £18 to see The Damned in Leeds, on my own, when I could barely afford food. However with the ticket already purchased I decided to make the best of things and, after a fortifying smoke, made my way into the icy night in search of punk rock and good times. As venues go, O2 Academies are never ideal for a solo gig mission; overpriced beer and oversized rooms almost seem specifically designed to feel unwelcoming, lessening the connection the crowd feels with the band, and with each other. However The Dickies, over from the US to open on the tour, showed no signs of noticing this and proceeded to put a smile on everyone’s face with their camp, slapstick pop punk. Singer Leonard Graves Philips looks like an alcoholic maths teacher and dances like a stripper having an on-stage breakdown, which taken along with props including a snorkel and sex doll for ‘Waterslide’ and a cock’n’balls sock puppet for ‘If Stuart Could Talk’, made for one of the most fun live performances I saw all year. I can imagine the gig at the Brudenell the previous summer was a treat, another UK headline tour in the near future definitely wouldn’t go amiss.
After the edifying site of seeing large groups of drunken middle aged punks singing along to punk versions of ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Banana Splits’, The Damned had a lot to match…and unfortunately, they didn’t pull it off. Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and co put together all the elements you could want from a Damned show; a good ratio between straight up rock and roll and keyboard heavy, looming gothic sounds, all the classics you would expect to here, and plenty of rock opera posturing. However, what still seemed fresh and fun as recently as the early 2000s, when I last saw them, now comes across as slightly jaded and worn out. Possibly it wasn’t helped by the herb that was now wearing off and bringing with it a tiredness I had forgotten about, but adding a five minute prog-style breakdown in to every song is not a way to keep anyone but the most accomplished muso geek interested. I forced myself to stay until I heard ‘Smash it Up’ (of course, the final encore), but by then I was tired and ruefully thinking about other ways I could have spent that twenty quid. Nostalgia, you are a violent and fickle mistress…all I can say is thank god for the Dickies!
3/5 (That three not being for the Damned, in case you were wondering).