The Damned (original line-up) at Hammersmith Apollo 29.10.2022 with The Rezillos supporting
This is the second of two London gigs, part of a short tour, featuring the original 1976/77 line-up. This was the line-up featuring the ever-present Dave Vanian, the usually present Captain Sensible, returning drummer Rat Scabies and Brian James on guitar, the songwriter and original guitarist for the first two albums.
My Damned Memories: 42 years
My first Damned gig was in December 1980 at the then Hammersmith Odeon – I am wearing my 1980 tour badge tonight.
The memories have been helped by a cutting I kept from that gig but I remember it being pretty wild. Captain Sensible chucked a pint of lager over where I was. We were in about the fourth row – it was all seated then – a few of those seats were casualties – all a bit frustrating at the time the seats thing. I remember Lemmy (Mötorhead) coming on sweeping the stage with a massive broom and other guest Ruts coming on during the Damned set to play. (I thought Paul Cook and Steve Jones put in an appearance as well, as The Professionals – maybe someone can confirm that.) That was The Black Album tour, still one of my favourite Damned albums.
By my calculations this is my 11th Damned gig. The other early one was in the early 80s at Birmingham Locarno (became the Powerhouse) on 25.11.81 – I still have the ticket and The Anti-Nowhere League and GBH supported. Then in 1984 I remember an outdoor gig, marred by violence, in Brockwell Park as part of the series of save the GLC concerts. I still remember blokes running about with broken big beer bottles during New Model Army’s set.
Bit of a gap then to the noughties when I saw them play at the London Roundhouse and then a variety of other places headlining such as Weymouth Pavilion, The Brook Southampton, Bournemouth O2 and then supporting Green Day at Hyde Park and The Hollywood Vampires in Birmingham. The support slots are never quite up to the mark of when a band is headlining and everyone makes the trip to see them.
When I was at school Hammersmith was a reasonably handy one as a bit of a gateway to London from the South West suburbs and it was very active for decent gigs with the Odeon and the wonderful and long gone Hammersmith Palais. We used to go in The Swan pub beforehand and that’s where we congregate tonight – a different ‘we’ but I am absorbing the sense of history.
Outside we used to dodge the calls of ‘got a spare 10p mate’ from chancers looking for beer money and tonight I don’t know what inflation has done but it’s now the hapless cries of ‘got any spare change’ from a bemusing mix of drug abusers and god knows who. Takings must be poor in the cashless new world.
Earlier in the day we pop down, to the right of tonight’s venue, to the relaxed riverside pubs – two nice ones with good beer choices near Hammersmith Bridge – and we opt for The Blue Anchor. Keep walking west along the towpath and you’ll find The Dove (a cracker but can be over popular).
The Apollo (The old Odeon) has stood firm since 1932, unconcerned by the flyover that so rudely appeared across its iconic facade, and with little discernible outside change aside from the maze of security barriers. The building closed for a major renovation in 2013 and remains one of the nation’s great venues. Everyone has played here: I’ve seen The Ramones, The Stranglers, David Byrne, The Cure, Killing Joke to name a few.
Inside the bar and entrance hall is an art deco beauty: it’s almost enough to distract from the beer prices. Glad we stopped in the Swan and didn’t linger too long here though. We have missed two early supports but the shared decision (when etickets are on one phone a consensus has to be reached) was to get in for The Rezillos set – I’m sporting my glow in the dark Flying Saucer Attack t-shirt after all.
It’s a 5000 capacity without the seats downstairs (3500 with them in) and the sloping floor aids the view, although easy to take a tumble as the spilled drinks flow gently down. Last night was sold out but there seems room this evening. We move down the right side and stop as the slope flattens two thirds of the way down.
The Rezillos – supporting
The Rezillos are on. It’s up the loud end and the sound is a bit crash bang – an additional pair of old style speaker stacks sat on either side of the stage, and so one in front of us may be part of the problem.
In the last five years I have seen The Rezillos quite a lot, twice already this year, and once again I am reminded that if you like a band then when they’re not headlining be prepared to be a little disappointed. Still, always good to enjoy Destination Venus and Top of the Pops again.
The Damned (1976/77) Live
This is one hell of a moment. The original Damned take the stage. A huge sense of nostalgia and of just being here. The stage set is no frills and old school. No flash lighting – it looked like my early gig recollections. Just the gear and these old men, in their 60s, about to make a beautiful racket. It is bloody loud….I Feel Alright to start (first album and Stooges cover). Next a few off the Music For Pleasure album… well if you include the extended version with The Beatles’ Help! Fast and messy I would describe it as..that’s how the first two albums are and there is that authenticity in the performance.
The set is all of that classic first album Damned Damned Damned – scrambled with half of Music for Pleasure, not an album I warmed to much beyond the Stretcher Case Baby and Problem Child singles.
I maybe hadn’t mentally prepared enough for seeing the old less sophisticated Damned. The sound, besides being loud as ever, was distorting. Maybe it was where we were stood but it is a very early days crash of sound…exciting though it is.
The Captain is far more restrained than usual… well that is until the end when he smashes up his bass – yes he’s back on bass tonight. Far more uplifting than it should be – smash it up, smash it up (who can forget that Old Grey Whistle Test performance).
Dave Vanian looks at fit as ever, darting all over the place; into the darkness of the stage edges. Brian James looks to be physically struggling with it all – he was escorted on stage and doesn’t venture far from his amp – but plays on unconcerned. The Rat on drums is wild and it’s hard to take your eyes off the white light illumination of the drums.
Neat Neat Neat is one of the best. Some songs you can’t stop punching the air to… Stab Your Back follows. It’s raw and short..abrupt….that’s how it was.
The end of the main set and it’s So Messed Up… music to fall around drunk to. To quote that Sounds cutting from 1980… a ‘choreographed chaos’ of a song. It’s done. I feel I’m standing wide-eyed wondering what I’ve witnessed.
The crowd are adoring. Adoring the moment and the history. The band return… and into New Rose. This must be one of the best live songs you can hear – it sounds so live even on the record. I may be over stating it but I think I’d pay the ticket price alone to see them play this…here. It’s a moment. A stage invader leaps over the barrier, is downed by security and saved by Dave Vanian to enjoy the moment… like the rest of us. (New Rose captured on YouTube)
After that, what can there be: a few covers Pills (Bo Diddley) and a poignant This Could Be the Last Time (Stones) in which The Captain smashes things up (caught by someone on YouTube here).
This was a gig for nostalgics. I guess that was the intention. Objective achieved. Thank you. Brian James we salute you. I will be back for the new Damned sometime soon…. will Rat Scabies want to come out to play again? Go on.