When I found out a while ago that The Damned were playing in NYC, I knew I had to go. I mean these guys are some of the founding fathers of punk, punk rock icons, if you will.
Case in point: Playing their first show in 1976 with the Sex Pistols, these pioneers have weathered all types of storms and line-up changes through the years, managing to come out stronger than ever when most bands would just roll over and die. Thus, I wanted to go to the show to see the originators of the British punk movement, the influencers of innumerable bands that have formed in the last twenty-six years, to see the personification of fortitude and resilience, and yeah, to see what strange, theatrical type of show the infamous original members David Vanian and Captain Sensible along with Pinch, Patricia Morrison, and Monty Oxy Moron would put on. Also, two cool bands would be playing there as well who I had never seen live before: Tiger Army and Tsunami Bomb, who both have ties to AFI.
Frist up was Tsunami Bomb from California, who just put out their first full-length entitled The Ultimate Escape. Led by front woman Agent M, these guys played fresh, fun punk songs from their debut CD as well as stuff off their 2000 EP that are extremely catchy and had the crowd dancing early on. Likewise, they had a great stage presence, talking to the crowd during breaks in their tight set. They seemed genuinely happy to be playing in NYC, as it was their first time here.
Not long after Tsunami Bomb finished one could discern some country blasting on the sound system, which I think was Johnny Cash. This could only mean one thing: Hellcat Records' Tiger Army was ready to take the stage and forge an all-out attack on the unwitting crowd. And that they did, simply blowing everyone away with their highly intense unique blend of punk, hardcore, and yes, rockabilly that has earned the label of "psychobilly." Missing their stint with The Distillers and Nekromantix (also advocates of psychobilly) on the "Punx vs. Psychos Tour" earlier this year in NYC because singer/guitarist Nick 13 was ill, I was excited to finally see them live. And Tiger Army didn't fail to wow the crowd with their insanely fast and sometimes dark rhythms and zany antics. The most memorable moment, however, had to be when stand-up bassist Geoff Kresge (formerly of AFI) won over the crowd as he actually climbed atop his bass mid-song, standing there with his arms raised in triumph, and if that wasn't enough, started to play. SImply incredible. In any case, the trio played material off their latest release, The Early Years EP, as well as songs from Tiger Army II: Power of Moonlite, including a great rendition of "Incorporeal."
As smoke filled the room and an almost palpable aura of mystery permeated The World, we anxiously awaited the red velvet curtain's (was that used just for The Damned?) ascent from the stage. Appropriately when it finally was lifted, candelabras replete with burning white candles lavishly decorated the stage, adding to the ominously somber ambiance as The Damned broke into song. However, despite the atmosphere and my perceived notions of what a Damned show would be like, overall the band's onstage persona wasn't as grave and theatrical as I had imagined. True, front man David Vanian came out in all-black attire and Patricia Morrison was looking very Elvira-ish with her long raven-black hair, pale skin, and blood red lips, but on the whole, was rather more on the comic side, largely in part due to guitarist Captain Sensible. This guy stole the show quite often quipping with the crowd (especially the ladies), playing while laying on the floor, humping the roadie, and doing things with a banana that no piece of fruit should every be a party to. I'll let you figure it out.
In any event, The Damned played a killer set that was comprised of both new and old material, proving that even after twenty-six years these guys haven't lost their edge. Vanian's deep, arcane vocals resonated throughout The World on such classics as "I Just Can't Be Happy Today" and "Plan 9 Channel 7" as well as songs from their latest release on Nitro, Grave Disorder, including "Democracy," "Song.com," "She," "Would You Be So Hot (If You Weren't Dead?)," "Absinthe," and "Amen," which highlights Morrison's unbelievable bass stylings, not to mention the furious guitars and thunderous drums that are quintessential elements of the band's now-legendary sound.
They fittingly ended their one hour and forty-five minute set with two of their greatest songs ever: the fast-paced "Love Song" and the chaotic "Smash It Up," which ended rightly so when drummer Pinch demolished his drum set. Nope, they haven't lost their punk sensibility, and that's great to see. They are quite the entertainers and put on an amazing show.