Monthly Archive: November 2011

Opinions, opinions, opinions……

mymug“Everybody is entitled to my opinion” – although you may not agree…

In a former job, I had a mug, in which I was fed coffee every morning. On it said “Everybody is entitled to my opinion.” It used to make many people laugh, because I’m outspoken, I’d offer my opinion -but that didn’t mean to say everyone had to agree.

All I did was offer the best from what I saw, and from my life experience. I’m also big enough to take into consideration others views and perspectives and take them on board, and know that you too have your own opinion. And you may not agree with mine. And that’s absolutely fine.

As you can see from my blog I regularly review gigs. I would love to say everyone I go to is fantastic, I had a whale of a time, you must all rush out and see them. Reviewing gigs gives me the opportunity to see lots of very different acts, in different venues and live the experience. I also get to see acts that may not be my first choice in music taste, those of us that love seeing live music will have genres or acts we’re fans of, other acts are an opportunity to experience something new or different.

When I review a gig I take into consideration a wide variety of things – did they perform well, did they engage with the crowd, what was the crowd reaction, what’s the venue like, what little events happened, and given the face value of the ticket, would I recommend to ‘a friend’ what can be a lot of money, going to see them. The audience response is important to me, the particular act may not be my scene, but if the crowd are blown away, I will say so.

I’ve been going to live music for more years than I can count, seen hundreds of bands crossing across pretty much every genre, for most of that as a paying punter. Your average ticket price is around £25 -£30 for a mid- range venue, so for two tickets that’s £50-£60 plus booking fee, plus all the other costs – many gigs these days are not the cheapest night out – so I know as a punter, you become more selective who you see.

So for those that were there at any gig I review, I hopefully want to give a feel of the night, and those little things that make you smile. For those who weren’t there, what you missed,  to give a feel for if it’s worth you taking the effort when they come round again. Or for those looking for something new, whether it’s worth taking a punt.

I don’t get paid for writing reviews, however, I do get access to gigs. When I’m putting a review together I do try and check I’ve got information as correct as possible in any review. Sometimes errors sneak through, and if I’ve got something wrong, sorry about that. There will always be someone who knows more that I about a particular band.

But it’s something I really enjoy doing. I love the experience and hooking up with new people and the talented photographers who turn up to the gig to take the pictures you look at.  I really enjoy the ability of seeing something new. Few people have the courage to put their views down for others to read, even though they have an opinion. As I’ve said I would love to say every gig I have been to has been fantastic. The best thing since sliced bread. Whether it be my favouritist band in the world, or one I’ve experienced for the first time. But sometimes, that’s just not the case, for a variety of reasons. And I will express that view, yet try and be balanced.  It is, at the end of the day, my opinion. You may disagree. And that’s absolutely fine…..

Deep Purple + Cheap Trick @ LG Arena, 27th November 2011

Deep Purple are one of the legends of rock. Formed way back in ’68, in a time that gave us local legends Sabbath and Zeppelin, they are too are one of the pioneers, that spawned a million rock fans. And tonight they’re here at the LG Arena with a 38 piece orchestra in tow, with “The Songs That Built Rock”.

The line-up may have changed over the years (Lord, Coverdale, Blackmore, Hughes and even for a brief moment, Satriani) tonight’s lineup features drummer Ian Paice (the only member never to have left), Roger Glover (bass), Ian Gillan (vocals) plus Steve Morse (guitar) and Don Airey (keyboards). Once bestowed with the title of “Loudest Pop Group” by the Guinness Book of World Records throughout their career they’ve sold over 100 million records.

“Deep Purple: The Songs That Built Rock” is part of a World tour featuring the 38 piece Frankfurt New Philharmonic Orchestra. No strangers to this particular slant on rock – Purple performed with an orchestra as far back as 1969.

First on stage are US rockers Cheap Trick, here supporting Purple on the four dates of the UK leg of the tour. Their set is nearly an hour long and includes their hits – you found yourself singing along to ‘I Want You To Want Me.’ They go down well, a pretty good entrée to the main course.

And then just before 9, first the Orchestra fill their positions in a half circle arranged at the back of the stage. Then their conductor for tonight, Steven Bentley-Klein, takes to his podium, and bang on the dot of 9 – the Orchestra start up.

On come the band, 1972 appearing in big letters on the two side screens and we’re into the first track ‘Highway Star.’ Gillan waves to the audience, who respond accordingly. Our photographer for tonight, John Bentley, has a real challenge – we counted fifteen photographers in the pit. Purple may be the elder statesman of rock, but they can still give it some; the first track is received to rapturous applause. Second track ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’ starts of with bass, a metal riff and a scream from Gillan; a tub-tumping beat, with keyboard dabbling and orchestral support.

“Fantastic! Thank you!” Gillan acknowledges the audience after ‘Strange Kinda Woman.’ “….this is the title track from our very latest CD from 5 years ago and it’s called ‘Rapture of The Deep.'”; a rock song with a deep oriental, kinda Kashmir feel to it, the Orchestra accompaniment is well suited.

The audience remain seated and refined, but clearly are enjoying tonight’s gig, shouts of “c’mon” in anticipation. “It’s all coming back,” says Gillan, “…my great pleasure to introduce the Aviator – Steve Morse” and so to their current axe merchant, who delivers a high pitched exquisite solo, mythical in sound, wind (fan) blowing in his hair.

Full band back on and we have the bluesy ballad which is ‘When A Blind Man Cries’, again with the orchestra in full flow. Clap clap clap go the audience encouraged by Gillan as Morse jams away. “Thank you so much – you were wonderful…”  The songs go on intermixed with solos – including one by keyboard player Airey, an exquisite montage of organ, meets piano virtuoso, plus a musical comedy mix, which makes the audience laugh, all in time with the orchestra.

Then back to the full band for ‘Lazy’, a real Orleans blues inspired number, Gillan on harmonica, the conductor pulling out an electric violin to fiddle a duel with axesmith Morse. Next up, ‘No One Came’ a galloping romp, warping guitar riffs over bouncing rhythm, given even more depth and power by the orchestra in full flow, the stage flashing in darkness and light. “Thank you, that was our dance tune…”

‘Perfect Strangers’ cranks up to a crescendo, ‘Space Trucking’ gets the crowd clapping and then to spotlights on Morse and THAT guitar riff. The audience stand and sing-a-long with the chorus, the conductor turns to conducting them. As if I need to say, that’ll be ‘Smoke on the Water’ then.

“Fantastic. Sublime. Wonderful.” Gillan acknowledges the Orchestra and they’re off. For one of the shortest breaks I’ve seen after a main set, the crowd cheer and stamp their feet.  Back on for the encore and it’s into ‘Hush’ – taking you back in time, then into a drum solo, and then a bass solo and we’re into ‘Black Night’, to a great response from the audience.

“Thank you, you’ve been great, take it easy, we love you all.”

Deep Purple are one of the icons of rock / metal. And for a band that have been going for so long, everyone will have their stance on which is the best model, Deep Purple I, II, III, IV et al. Rock bands with orchestras in tow have also proved to be controversial, even though this is not Purple’s first foray into such waters. Whether you like the raw sound, or this more expanded version, for a band well into their sixties (Gillan is 66), they are still clearly having a blast and I really enjoyed the orchestral experience. And they don’t plan to disappear shortly – expect another album in 2012.  Tonight’s gig was circa £40 and I thought it was well worth it, for the musicianship, for the opportunity to see such a legendary band, for the alternative orchestral interpretation, and just for the sheer enjoyment. Few bands leave such a legacy; few have influenced generations. And yes, I went home with THAT riff going round my head, wondering just how many people learnt it as the first guitar riff they ever learnt. I had a text of a mate’s son. He’s just turned 18. I said I was at Deep Purple. His response: Durn durn durrrr, durn durn dedurrrr, durn dum derrrr, dum derrrrrr……..

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Setlist: 

1. Highway Star

2. Hard Lovin’ Man

3. Maybe I’m a Leo

4. Strange Kind of Woman

5. Rapture of the Deep

6. Woman from Tokyo

7. Contact Lost

8. When a Blind Man Cries

9. The Well Dressed Guitar

10. Knocking At Your Door

11. Lazy

12. No One Came

13. Perfect Strangers

14. Space Trucking

15. Smoke on the Water

Encore:

16. Hush

17. Black Night

 

Peter Frampton @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 15th November 2011

Okay – I’m busy at these here gigs! Another gig for Birmingham Live! This time at the splendicious Symphony Hall.

To another refined gig at the wonderful Symphony Hall – a celebration of the recordings from 35 years ago – so for the third time in less than a week I’m transported to ’76, tonight it’s to Peter Frampton showcasing ‘The Frampton Comes Alive’ 35th Anniversary Tour.

Originally released in January 1976, ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’ is one of the best-selling live albums in chart history spending 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts and selling in excess of 17 million copies worldwide.
Previously a member of Humble Pie and The Herd, Frampton went solo in ’71 and since then he’s produced fourteen solo albums. He’s lucky to be here  – he survived a near fatal car crash in ’78. A regular on the touring circuit, he’s worked with a variety of artists including Bowie, members of Pearl Jam, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, to name but a few.

Tonight’s gig starts at 7.40pm with the first track from his classic album – ‘Somethings Happening.’ He starts as he means to go on – half way through the vocals for ‘Dobbie Wah’ a question “How’s that for you friends?” Third track in – a recognizable hit – ‘Show Me The Way’ – great rendition, the audience clap along.

“Thank you very much indeed – nice to be back. Home to Steve Winwood and Ozzy – been here many times – I’ve always loved playing here….” Frampton is chatty and engaging and refers to the days of vinyl, when you’re now at the end of side one and you have to get up from your spliff and turn the record over, before crashing back into your seat. … “That’s what I heard anyway…” he says with a cheeky grin.

The band are tight, Frampton’s guitar playing exquisite and mesmerizing, shown to it’s full potential in one of the best sound auditorium’s in the country. He comes across as a really lovely guy, clearly enjoying what he does. ‘(I’ll Give You) Money’ has rolling guitar solos, dueling onstage with fellow axesmith Adam Lester.

Then into a bluesy, laid back version of Humble Pie’s ‘Shine On’ before it morphs into The Stones ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, flicking a plectrum into the audience as he finishes the song.  ‘Do You Fell Like I Do’ has on screen accompaniment DO… YOU…. YOU… FEEL LIKE I DO…intermixed with pictures of fans holding the original vinyl album and some footage of his incarnation on “The Simpsons”. And includes the use of his wah-wah voice-box, a line on screen fluctuating with the sounds he makes…. “Can you understand what I’m saying…” fascinating to hear and listen to as his voice meanders in accompaniment to his guitar.

First part of the night over – time for an intermission, where a voiceover from Frampton invites us to “… take a break, go for a pee and come back in 20 minutes.”

Back on and we have more cartoon footage – this time an incarnation on “Family Guy,” followed by a series of instrumentals from the ‘Fingerprints’ CD – “Where I didn’t sing a note and they gave me an award…”

Next up from his new CD ‘Thank you Mr. Churchill’ he’s joined by son Julian on stage to sing the vocals on ‘Road to the Sun.’ Very late 70s / early 80s traditional rock – think Priest / Zeppelin / early Maiden. “Dunno how he got that tall….. (glint in the eye)… he pats me on the head now….”

And now to the song I’d heard he would do and was a bit nervous about, being a fan, a cover of Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’. There was no singing (besides a section on the voice box) but all in all, it was heavy with a psychedelic nuance – and it worked. “That was written by Chris Cornell and Soundgarden….” (The audience clearly have NO CLUE who either Cornell or Soundgarden are) “…. they’re currently touring and will be coming here soon.” (Me – Oh goodie! Excited now!)

Then an intro to the rest of the band, including “Mr. Stanley Shelton” (the only surviving member of the Frampton band from the 70’s) and into anther Humble Pie song ‘Four Day Creep’ and they’re off, a group hug on stage and a bow to the audience who give a standing ovation – they’ve clearly enjoyed it.

Back on for one last track, Frampton walks on stage playing the ‘Jaws’ theme tune, and meanders on his guitar before launching into a stunning version of Beatles track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps’  – the stand out track of the night.

“See you in the summer – keep on coming, this is wonderful…” and as they leave the stage, a nice touch, credits, not only of the band members but of all those involved in the tour, scroll up the screen.

Frampton is a genuinely nice guy, massively talented (while many people may not include him in their top list of guitar exponents in this country, they clearly should) and has a genuine infectious enthusiasm for what he does. Gone is the rock spirally perm look – but the passion and skill very much remain. I found myself nodding and foot-tapping to tracks, without realizing, and his is very transfixing on stage, whether you appreciate his axesmith abilities or not. And pretty much a three hour show….he gave us a show that was relevant, he used screens to the full, he engaged, he clearly enjoyed it. This audience was fifties / sixties, but I would say – even if you know little by him – well worth taking a peek when he’s around in the summer….

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Setlist:

[Frampton Comes Alive – in its entirety]

Something’s Happening
Doobie Wah
Lines on my Face
Show me the way
It’s a Plain Shame
Wind of Change
Penny for your Thoughts
All I want To Be (Is By Your Side)
Baby I Love Your Way
I Wanna Go to the Sun
(I’ll Give You) Money
Shine On (Humbie Pie)
Jumping Jack Flash (Rolling Stones Cover)
Do You Feel Like We Do

Encore 1:
Included:
Asleep at the Wheel
Road to the Sun
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden Cover)
Four Day Creep (Humble Pie)

Encore 2:
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles Cover)

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Listening:
Frampton Comes Alive! (1976)

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Evanescence + The Pretty Reckless @ o2 Academy Birmingham, Sunday 13 November 2011

Another review for Birmingham Live! This time to goth rock.  Read the full reviewhere with pics by Ian Dunn.

Another day, another gig, tonight it’s to rock gothic melodrama and a packed O2 Academy. Out promoting their new self-titled album, on their final date of their UK tour, Amy Lee and her support crew are here to bring Birmingham to life – it’s time for Evanescence.

We arrive tonight in time to catch the last half of support act The Pretty Reckless. Fronted by actress (Gossip Girl)/ model/ singer Taylor Momsen, she has vocals crossed between Juliette Lewis, Courtney Love and Joan Jett. ‘My Medicine’ is followed by their heavy, heavy version of The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’. Then to a huge clap and cheer, their first song ever released on download, ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ to which we all sing along.  This band was created around Momsen only last year, and various people at tonight’s gig tweeted there were paparazzi hanging around to grab a sneaky photo. Best support I’ve seen in a while, look out for The Pretty Reckless, methinks they will be The Pretty Next Big Thing in rock n’ roll.

Formed just six years ago by Amy Lee and Ben Moody, Evanescence’s first album ‘Fallen’ had stratospheric sales: over 17m albums worldwide (winning a vast series of awards including two Grammys) driven by huge hit ‘Bring Me To Life’ (with vocal support from Paul McCoy of 12 Stones). Their follow-up album, ‘The Open Door’ continued that success with sales over 6 million.

The band line up has changed entirely since they started out – Evanescence these days is Amy Lee supported by Tony Balsamo (guitar), Tim McCord (bass), Troy McLawhon (rhythm guitar) and Will Hunt (drums).

So just after 9pm, to dry ice and a huge amount of screams, on come Evanescence, opening up with the first single from the new album ‘What You Want’ with a loud bass riff; the crowd bounce bounce bouncing along.

Tonight’s audience is young – predominantly mid teens to early twenties and, unusually for a rock gig, a very female audience. Enthusiastic, they are keen to sing along at any given opportunity. Next track in, Evanescence hit ‘Going Under’ which goes down even better with the crowd. Lee: “Thank you! Having a great time tonight….. Thank you for getting our new album to number 1 in the UK…!”

Tonight’s set swings between Lee walking round stage punching her arm in the air, or sitting at a piano at the front of the stage, the later unusual to see in a rock band.  The set rolls on, great response from the adoring crowd; Lee comments how pleased she is by the crowd’s response to the new stuff. “Thank you very much – it makes my heart feel very warm to hear you singing along to a new song! Here’s another one….”

The set finishes on that massive single  ‘Bring Me To Life’ (without male accompaniment – the crowd fill in the missing bits). The crowd is ecstatic and during the break eagerly responds with a chant of “we want more, we want more….”

Back on stage, Lee: “This is our last night of our tour in the UK, tomorrow night it’s Paris…” and an acknowledgement to touring fans that have followed her round the UK. And then into the three track encore – ‘Never Go Back’, ‘Your Star’ and another hit and very probably the standout track of the night ‘My Immortal.’  Here, as during parts of tonight’s gig, lighters are replaced by mobile phones, as swathes of the crowd attempt to film the song.  Huge cheer and clapping as the set is completed – after just 1 hour and 10 minutes – “See ya next year!” promises Lee.

Evanescence had massive success on their first album. 17 million + sales worldwide and 43 weeks in the Billboard Top 10 is pretty incredible. They have brought gothic rock to the masses and brought in a young, female crowd, who will hopefully seek to experience more that rock and metal has to offer. If you like Evanescence they give you exactly what you would expect, they have followed ‘Bring Me To Life’ template to the letter – there is no deviation from their gothic metal, ethereal sound, they are louder and harder rock than on record. It’s clearly a formula that works for Lee and her gang.  Tonight I thought they were good, not great, and that the ticket price of £28.50 a pop for me was a tad steep. However, for those who adore Evanescence, and you clearly do, you clearly had a blast.

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Setlist:

1. What You Want
2. Going Under
3. The Other Side
4. Weight of the World
5. The Change
6. Made of Stone
7. Lost in Paradise
8. My Heart is Broken
9. Lithium
10. Sick
11. Ocean
12. Call Me When You’re Sober
13. Imaginary
14. Bring Me To Life

Encore:
15. Never Go Back
16. Your Star
17. My Immortal

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Listening:
The Fallen (2003)
The Open Door (2006)
Evanescence (2011)

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Yes @ Symphony Hall Birmingham, Friday 11th November 2011

Another review for Birmingham Live, if a tad contentious! See the full review here– with Pics by Katja Orgin!

Last night I saw full on punk! Tonight it’s something entirely different, in a very refined environment, here at The Symphony Hall to see legendary stalwarts of prog rock YES.

Yes were formed over 40 years ago, way back in 1968, by Chris Squire and Jon Anderson. And their journey has had more twists and turns and turmoil than you would believe. Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe joined the party and success came with their ‘The Yes Album’ and ‘Fragile’ albums followed by ‘Close to the Edge’ and ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’, and in the late ’70s with ‘Relayer’ (the later without Wakeman). All albums featured classic album art by Roger Dean to accompany their iconic logo, as does their new one, all are which high collectible as originals or limited edition prints – you will pay thousands.

By ’80 both Anderson and Wakeman left due to ‘musical differences’ and Yes were joined by Trevor Horn (legendary musical producer and one time member of The Buggles). Yes split, and reformed with a pop rock sound – album ’90125′ became their best-selling album, featuring the massive hit ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart.’

Then there were the legal battles over the name, two versions of the band were touring, but by 2002, for their 35th anniversary some of the differences were put aside and Rick Wakeman joined them on tour. Then another hiatus from touring, predominantly due to illness of different band members, before starting up again in 2008 with Rick Wakeman’s son Oliver, joining the parade.

Roll on 2011, with new album in tow ‘Fly from Here’ (produced by Horn) they’re back on the road again, although Oliver Wakeman has now been replaced with Geoff Downes (Asia), joining original member Squire and Howe, Alan White and Benoit David taking on vocal duties. With an average age of 62, beside the youthful David at 45, tonight will be interesting to see if they can still deliver after all these years.

On stage at 8pm, to a rapturous cheers and standing ovation, tonight’s set starts off with ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’ which rolled on for 20 minutes, at one point David leaving the stage so the main players could showcase their excellent musical talents. Even though they no longer tour with the vocal sounds of Anderson, David gives it his best, vocals harmonised to give that unique ‘Yes’ sound.

Then into ‘Tempus Fugit’ where two small screens behind the band showcase Dean’s artwork. The audience is appreciative – and Squire acknowledges the Birmingham crowd, the great turnout and introduces Downes, who stands surrounded by a bank of nine keyboards. Then into new track ‘You’re More – I’ve Seen All Good People’ – as a band they seem far tighter playing new stuff than the old.

Just under an hour in and we are treated to a Steve Howe solo – showcasing what he can achieve on a guitar. I’m no aficionado on the guitar – but what he performed was indeed impressive. Howe: “He’s really helped me out tonight…” referring to a roadie who, like a little squirrel, regularly pops on and of stage swapping out his guitars.

And now to the lead track from the new album; ‘Fly From Home’ rambles on for 25 minutes. Footage on the screens showing a guy walking into a modern airport, getting on a plane that is set in the 50’s, where we discover he’s a pilot. He then discovers there’s no pilot on the plane and must take over and stop it from crashing. The track didn’t really need to go on that long, like a two-hour drama, where everything is said in an hour and a half.
Then it’s into a track that was a hit (difficult to have many hits when 20 minutes opus’s don’t really fit into 3 minutes)  ‘Wonderous Stories.’ Unfortunately it didn’t really work, David’s vocals didn’t quite match Anderson’s and Wakeman on keyboards was truly missed. Couple of further tracks – nearly two hours in – David“You guys are fantastic, thank you for coming along, it’s very nearly time for us to go…” and they’re into ‘Starship Trooper’ – even Downes picks up a mobile / guitar like keyboard and we get into a ‘Status Quo’ moment with all members bar the drummer, rocking down in a row.

Great response from the audience and we’re into the encore – ‘Roundabout.’  Again, great response from the audience, the band line up and take a bow in acknowledgment.

For me tonight, Yes appeared to be a shadow of their former selves. They were performing in one of the best venues in the UK for sound and quality, and maybe in some respects, it showed their flaws. There is no doubt that each member a has huge and impressive talent, but it felt like there was five individuals on stage tonight, it took to the last couple of songs for them to engage with each other and then the crowd. There are so many bands touring on nostalgia, but for me, Yes seemed stuck in the past, they hadn’t moved with the times, and sorely missed Anderson and Wakeman. The limited on-screen graphics could have really benefited by using simulated fly throughs taking us into worlds created by Dean and Yes. The crowd was appreciative for a multitude of reasons – delivering prog rock is not a bad thing, it should take you into a trance, a world of escapism. Unfortunately, I just felt that the Yes on stage tonight didn’t deliver what they once had. Rather a shame. In lots of ways.

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Setlist:
1. Yours is No Disgrace
2. Tempus Fugit
3. You’re More – I’ve Seen All Good People
4. Life on a Film Set
5. And You and I
6. Steve (Solo)
7. Fly from Home
8. Wonderous Stories
9. Into the Storm
10. Heart of the Sunrise
11. Starship Trooper

Encore:
12. Roundabout

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Listening:
The Yes Album (1971)
Fragile (1971)
Relayer (1974)
90125 (1983)
Fly From Here (2011)

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The Damned + Viv Albertine @ 02 Academy, Birmingham, 10th November 2011

Another review for Birmingham Live! This time – good old British Punk! Thanks to the people who have offered corrections – always try to get as much accurate as possible, but occasionally things slip through!

These guys were there right at the start of that angry, in your face, music scene called punk. They released the first punk rock single ‘New Rose.’ And tonight they’re in Brum on their 35th anniversary tour. Welcome to the crazy world that is The Damned.

Formed in ’76, Brian James and Rat Scabies needed a singer. They invited one Dave Vanian (whose day job was as a gravedigger) and some other bloke called Sid Vicious to try out. Only one turned up. And Vanian has remained the only consistent member of the band ever since.

As one of punk’s stalwarts they supported T. Rex on their last tour (lead singer Marc Bolan had showcased the Damned and other punk bands such as Generation X, featuring one Billy Idol, on his own TV show). By ’84 they were still pushing the punk line – appearing live on cult TV show ‘The Young Ones.’

’85 brought their most commercial success, their dark but spoof like vampire goth-fest of ‘Phantasmagoria’ brought a series of hits and their cover of ‘Eloise’ which made number 3 in the charts. Since then it’s been a tad harder, but they have continued to record, having issued 10 albums in their career, the last being ‘So, Who’s Paranoid?’ in 2008. And, more importantly, they are one of those bands who appear to be permanently on tour.

And now I must mention the line-up, a revolving door of talent. Vanian, as stated has remained, joined tonight on stage by ‘the’ Captain “Happy Talk” Sensible. Rat Scabies left some years ago, and their previous line ups have included Lemmy (Motörhead), Jon Moss (Culture Club), Gary Holton (best known from TV series ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’), Paul Gray (Eddie and the Hot Rods), Patricia Morrison (Sisters of Mercy), ‘Moose’ Horns (New Model Army), Roman Jugg to name a few! For tonight’s gig, Vanian and the Captain are joined by Monty Oxy Moron, Stu West and Pinch.

Support tonight comes from a former member of the Flowers of Romance and The Slits, back with electric guitar in hand, after 20 years off stage. Viv Albertine, takes us through tracks dating back to ’76, dressed in silver spangly dress, believe me you would not think she is anywhere near her age. Half an hour of songs and chatty anecdotes and she’s off, a wave to the crowd as she departs the stage.

And so at 9pm, to the ‘Dambuster’s’ [correction 633 Squadron] theme – on they come – the Captain in usual red beret, fluffy white trademark coat, and yellow fluffy legs, Vanian in black Victorian suit.

“Well hello Birmingham, I’m Captain Sensible, you might have seen me on ‘Top of the Pops’ doing ‘Happy Talk.’ We’re gonna take you back to the 70s when ‘Top of the Pops’ had ‘lil’ Jimmy Osmund and David Cassidy…  and punk blew it away! We’re gonna play the album that started it all off – in it’s entirety….” And to a cheer from the crowd, we’re into the feverish, vicious pace that is the 35 minutes of ‘Damned Damned Damned.’

Tonight, The Damned are indeed on form – the Captain is chatty, live they still have clout, endless energy for fifty somethings, and they are tight – not the rag-tag botch and scarper of thirty five years ago. Vanians vocals are rangy and have depth and strength; the Captain has morphed into an axe merchant.  ‘Born to Kill’ is dedicated to former founder Brian James. Captain: “Is she really going out with him?” and into full flow with the iconic ‘New Rose.’

Then we have a ten minute intermission – either for the crowd or the band to catch their breath. Back on and the Captain has changed into a stripy sailor shirt with bloodied anchor. “And now we’re going to transport you to 1980 – when Vanian turned black.…” And now we’re into the ‘The Black Album’, once again, in it’s entirety.

A brief break halfway through, and the Captain’s chatting again. “My girlfriend’s at the back selling merchandising. We have some lovely T-shirts for out 35th anniversary…. for our 50th anniversary we’ll be selling zimmer frames embossed with The Damned logo.”  And this part of the set includes just 1 minute and 50 second of ‘Hit and Miss’, the strangest track on the album ‘Therapy’ and the full and complete shebang that it over 17 minutes of ‘Curtain Call’, complete with laser show.

Then another brief break and they’ve back on again – Vanian sipping red wine from a wine glass, the Captain swigging a bottle of beer.  The Captain once again:“Thank you for celebrating a dubious 35 year career with us Brummies…. some great bands from Birmingham and the Black Country… Roy Wood (we liked Roy Wood)… Led Zep…this has got to be one of the most famous riffs….” and he starts off into a Sabbath riff’. See I told you he was a secret axe merchant.

And then into the encore proper – first with their biggest hit from ’85 – ‘Eloise’ then that other classic punk song of theirs ‘Love Song.’ And then a deviation from the plan – no ‘Smash It Up’ – but ‘Antipope’ instead after the Captain berates the once owners of Barbarella’s who could potentially have managed them. “Thank you very much – we salute you!”  And as we walk out of the door, on comes ‘Girls on Film’ over the PA.

Tonight’s set would have put lesser bands to shame. On full form, 2 hours of pretty much non-stop, class action from a band that are far better live than most people would think, with more energy than most. The Damned are still great fun, there’s something tongue in cheek about the whole proceedings – but they are genuinely enjoying what they do, and park your thoughts about British punk, like several bands still going from those days, after thirty five years they are accomplished performers and musicians. Well worth seeing and if you fancy (another) peek they’re at Wolverhampton Civic on 27th May 2012. The Damned, we too salute you!

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Setlist:

[Damned Damned Damned – in its entirety]

1. Neat Neat Neat
2. Fan Club
3. I Fall
4. Born to Kill
5. Stab Your Back
6. New Rose
7. Fish
8. See Her Tonight
9. 1 of the 2
10. So Messed Up
11. I Feel Alright

……….Intermission……….

[The Black Album – in its entirety]

12. Wait for the Blackout
13. Lively Arts
14. Silly Kids Games
15. Drinking About My Baby
16. Twisted Nerve
17. Hit or Miss
18. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
19. Sick of This and That
20. The History of the World (Part 1)
21. 13th Floor Vendetta
22. Therapy
23. Curtain Call

Encore:
24. Love Song
25. Eloise
26. Smash It Up Parts 1 and 2

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Listening:
Damned, Damned, Damned (1977)
The Black Album (1980)
Strawberries (1982)
Phantasmagoria (1985)

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