Tag Archive: Viv Albertine

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!


[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


[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

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

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