“A lot of good bands have played on this stage, so we are going to try to live up to those expectations,” declared Captain Sensible of The Damned recently as the band started their show at The Fillmore Silver Spring.
Well, the band certainly met that goal and more as they played a smashing concert for the DMV on a tour promoting their very good new album, Darkadelic, released in April via EarMUSIC. The performance was dominated by 10 Darkadelic songs, which was OK by the very receptive and bustling crowd at The Fillmore Silver Spring, particularly as The Damned sounded amazing.
At The Fillmore Silver Spring on Oct. 25, The Damned actually first played “Street of Dreams,” an almost forgotten track the band revived in recent years, dating from their 1985 record Phantasmagoria. The song was a delightful vessel for frontman Dave Vanian’s marvelous voice, which rang clear and strong through the concert hall’s excellent sound system.
The Damned then were largely off into Darkadelic, which accounted for roughly half the show. The new songs are killer tunes, however, and The Damned sounded vital and awesome delivering singles such as “The Invisible Man” and “Beware of the Clown.”
There was an old-school charm to the Darkadelic tracks — great rock and roll with clever lyrics and inviting hooks. They sound like The Damned, and I think that was one of the reasons that the band started with “Street of Dreams” as that 1985 callback flowed seamlessly into the cautionary tales of the well-crafted rhythms of the 2023 numbers.
In a very good humor, Captain Sensible praised the songcraft of his bandmate Vanian several times throughout the show, and the praise was heartfelt and accurate. As chief songwriter for The Damned, Dave remains a wonder. Take for example, the instant classic “You’re Gonna Realise,” from the new record, which The Damned played about one-quarter through the show.
Watch the official music video for “You’re Gonna Realise” by The Damned on YouTube:
Captain thankfully wrote some good songs on the new record too, as did bassist Paul Gray, who has returned to The Damned as of 2017 after a classic stint in the ’80s. Gray was in fine shape, often holding down center stage with drummer Will Taylor, the newest member of The Damned as of 2022, or drifting to stage left with The Damned’s gregarious and kindhearted keyboardist Monty Oxymoron.
Young Mr. Taylor looked like he was born to be there (check out his killer performance in the video above) — and y’know maybe he was actually born to be there given The Damned have been in business since 1976! And as keyboardist for The Damned for the past 30 years, Monty was a welcome presence. Largely studious behind his kit, he grew more bold as the show progressed, and he broke out his signature dance at the front of the stage at the end of the show for the band’s first single, “New Rose.”
Speaking of “New Rose,” wow, it never gets old. In fact, many of the great songs by The Damned have aged really well and seem just as fresh and punchy as they day they debuted. The latter half of the show consisted of some standout selections, including the fun and frenetic “Love Song” from 1979’s Machine Gun Etiquette, as well as that album’s title track, and the utterly iconic “Neat Neat Neat” from 1977 debut record Damned Damned Damned. I’ve always loved the groove of “Neat Neat Neat,” and it got new life in my rotation with its inclusion as the favorite song of title character Baby Driver in Edgar Wright’s terrific 2017 film.
The Damned came with a couple of great surprises, including an arresting performance of “Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow” from their welcome 2018 record, Evil Spirits. As Captain Sensible accurately said, “It should have been a James Bond song.”
The Damned are on a a hot streak — they are in fit performance shape and their last two studio albums have cracked the UK Top 10 charts. Dave Vanian is as suave and graceful as ever, and he seems like someone with whom you would love to share a drink thanks to his incredible magnetism. The feisty Captain Sensible probably will remind you of the last person with whom you actually downed a pint, and that’s a wonderful thing. Captain is really truly one of the great ones, and The Damned weren’t the same without him at Cruel World 2022 (and their appearance at The Anthem in DC with Blondie), although the capable Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age filled in. Keep coming back please, Captain Sensible!
The Damned wrapped up their current run of USA tour dates with a Halloween show in New York City. Let’s hope we see these punk rock originals again soon.
Here are some photos of The Damned at The Fillmore Silver Spring on Oct. 25, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.