The Damned are touring in support of their latest release Evil Spirits. We caught their live show in Los Angeles at The Fonda Theatre on November 2nd 2018.
Going to a live show should be a social experience. Whether you turn up to the venue alone, with a date or a group, the point of being at any concert is to hear a band you like playing their songs as loud as possible and maybe making a new friend or picking up a new date at the bar or in the crowd. That’s the idea, right?
While waiting for the show to begin, I met up with friends down the street from The Fonda Theatre at Frolic Room. The place was filled with punks, goths, and weirdos and looked like a scene from a film about bygone days of the punk/goth scene. It was amazing to see so many people from various alternative scenes in one bar, imbibing, and socializing before the same show. I believe The Damned draws a particular crowd versus other punk or goth bands: since the frontman Dave Vanian has a penchant for the macabre and dressing like a refined ghoul, it makes sense that this self-identified punk band has such a strong goth following. Yet, there is a straightforward and intentionally aggressive edge to the early days of the band’s oeuvre. As seen in their history-making first LP Damned Damned Damned on Stiff Records in 1977, they were the first punk band in the UK to release an album. Given their punk roots and a lineup which at various times included Captain Sensible, Brian James, and Rat Scabies there is a definite draw for the punk crowd to continue supporting The Damned.
On tour in support of their 2018 release Evil Spirits the lineup has changed but the core duo of Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible remains. The set list covered the various chapters of the band’s career while throwing the crowd what seemed to be more of the punk side of their discography. Songs such as “Neat Neat Neat” and “New Rose” garnered a huge response from the crowd. Surprisingly, the audience tolerated an active mosh pit for the duration of the set with smiling faces visible as punches were thrown and many a concert-goer was shoved to the perimeter, all the while singing along.
A personal highlight for me was Dave Vanian’s genteel transition between a thrashing set of their early punk songs to more gothic rock songs. The lead singer of The Darts appeared onstage to serve Mr. Vanian a glass of red wine, adding a touch of formality to the affair. Kudos to Vanian for continuing to maintain his darkly romantic appeal through the decades via his stage presence and interest in creating theatre to accompany the music. A curious appearance by a grim reaper and multiple people crossing the stage carrying an egg in a spoon made the overall performance fun and somewhat irreverent.
The Damned continue to be a band worth following for their studio albums and live performances. Be sure to check out their website and their social media to find out when you can catch them on tour.