April 15, 2017 – The Commodore Ballroom
By Glenn Alderson
It’s important to note The Damned have been a band since before punk rock was even punk rock. And they’re still a band today, even after punk rock was reportedly murdered back in 1994 — witnesses claim they saw Billy Joe Armstrong and Dexter Holland fleeing the scene.
Celebrating 40 years, the UK innovators were in full form when they stepped out of the shadows of a nearby graveyard and touched down at the legendary Commodore Ballroom for a night of pure nostalgia. It appears as though they were able to drag half of the graveyard with them too, based on how much of the audience was comprised of Vancouver’s oldest punks. We’re talking real punks though, the good kind you can only read about in books like Please Kill Me or anything by Chris Walter. In fact, the notorious local author was even spotted front and centre, singing along to almost the entire set.
That many salty punks in one place is always good for some unexpected alcohol-fuelled drama, but there were actually fans of all ages packed into the venue that night to catch a rare glimpse of one of the first punk bands to ever release a single, an album and subsequently tour the United States.
Singer Dave Vanian could basically win an award for top sexiest vampires over 40 if such a thing ever existed. It probably does somewhere. The debonair frontman arose from his coffin backstage and right into the spotlight, following a spooky keyboard intro courtesy of Monty Oxymoron, the band’s longtime charismatic big-haired keyboardist.
Dressed in black from head to toe and singing with his left arm supported in a black sling, “I’m only wearing half a straitjacket tonight,” Vanian joked before the band broke into “Generals” from their 1982 album Strawberries. The last time The Damned performed in Vancouver was 2001, three days after 9/11, a fact that guitarist Captain Sensible reminded everyone of.
“How many times have you seen the Damned play our last show?” Sensible asked the audience, reminiscing on the band’s first farewell tour in 1978.
Forty years into their career, the band is significantly older but not amiss in any capacity. Playing for nearly two hours on one of the crustiest Saturday nights the Commodore has seen since NOFX played two sold out shows back in November, The Damned treated their fans of all ages to a charged up set of songs that spanned their entire career. From “Disco Man” to their cover of Paul Ryan’s “Eloise,” and of course, “Smash It Up” and “New Rose,” The Damned proved that no matter how steeped their image may be in the themes of death we know and love in goth culture, they’ve actually never sounded more alive.
Commodore Ballroom, The Damned