The Damned/T.S.O.L. - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)

The Damned / T.S.O.L.

Live in Philadelphia (2014)

live show

The original UK punk band (and arguably the first goth rock band) embarked on the appropriately titled HallowEast tour this past October. The Damned announced a handful of US east coast dates a few months ago including DC, Boston, Philly and NYC (with a few shit-kicking towns mixed in between). Opening for them were the cult-followed and reformed west coast doomy hardcore act True Sounds Of Liberty. The two groups were a match made in heaven (or hell?) – each share the musical traits of mixing dark melodies with fast tempos. This reviewer could have followed the whole tour but alcoholism and poverty prevailed. Thus the gig at the Theatre of the Living Arts in the city of brotherly love on Devil’s Night was the sole show attended and it did not in the least bit disappoint.

Each town has their own underground rock scenes and unique type of fans. At the Damned Friday the 13th performance in London last December, the middle-aged crowd wanted nothing but classics from Damned Damned Damned – some fans even shaking their heads in line for a beer while “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was coming through the speakers. However in Philly, the audience was made up of just as many goth kids as punks. A noticeable anomaly was everyone’s intense love for T.S.O.L. Never in my vast experience attending old school concerts have I ever seen more interest in an opener over a headliner. In fact, some in attendance even commented that they were surprised the Damned didn’t go on first. Regardless of lineup, both the Damned and T.S.O.L. played their idiosyncratic hearts out.

The reformed T.S.O.L. have been touring with original lead singer and sobered up Jack Grisham for some time. His straight-edged yet badass attitude came out in shouts of appreciation and classic punk rock aggression towards the audience. This frequent banter happening in between performance of tracks from Dance With Me, the magnum opus Beneath the Shadows as well as True Sounds’ early EPs. It’s interesting to hypothesize where the southern Californians could have derived their sound. The Damned themselves were not only the first UK punk band to tour the US, but also the first of that genre to tour the west coast for many years. Native sons of the birthplace of hardcore, perhaps T.S.O.L. were at those noisy early Damned gigs and followed as fans of the group into their gothic days, possibly incorporating similar gloominess into their music.

The proto-goth headliners that night were made up of founding members David Vanian and Captain Sensible as well as the same crew of new guys who’ve been with them for about a decade. Vanian and Sensible are arguable the core of the group, or at least the core of what made up the classic era. From 1977 to 1981 the Damned slowly progressed from old school punk pioneers into dark psychedelic romantics. All the while Vanian sticking to his vampire-like wardrobe and Sensible with familiar beret, sunglasses and ceaseless smile. To this day the two have separated and reunited too many times to count, but never giving up their incredibly unique styles. While their costumes have not changed much both musicians have recorded within a wide range of eclecticism. This evening was no exception.

The performance started out with tracks from The Black Album and Machine Gun Etiquette – that meaty transitional period. Quickly leading up to a few tracks from the maddening inspirations of Damned Damned Damned. When the group broke out into songs like “Neat Neat Neat” and “New Rose” the audience went wild. Waves of sweat and screams could be felt bouncing off the stage and hitting the bar in the rear. The Damned being no amateurs they properly seduced the audience. Eventually leaving on a supposed high note but to return for an encore of lighter and obscure tunes. Finally kissing the crowd goodbye with their most popular single Smash It Up Parts 1 & 2.

As the lights turned on it was slowly back to the gritty reality of devil’s night in Philly. Everyone rubbed sweaty hot shoulders trying to exit as quickly as possible into the cool streets. Fans attempted to exchange views of the concert but no one’s ears have properly adjusted. I reached the exit I tell a girl who’s dressed up as a sexy nun that I love her costume. As her boyfriend turns away, and whether she heard me or not, she gives me a big wet kiss on the lips, gazing at me as she walks away into the night. All in all it was DAMNED DAMNED DAMNED good show!