Review: The Damned @ Hindley Street Music Hall (Adelaide)

The Damned played Hindley Street Music Hall (Adelaide) on 24 March, 2024 - this photo was taken at their Brisbane concert (20 March, 2024 - image © Clea-marie Thorne)
Jason has been reporting on live music in South Australia for several years and will continue to do so while interest remains.

Less than a year since their last appearance on our shores, and billed as the 'final Australian tour', this reunion of an early line-up with drummer Rat Scabies recent return to the fold is a bonus for this apparent last hurrah of punk-rock icons The Damned.

In suitable support are the current iteration of The Hard-Ons (later praised by The Damned's Captain Sensible as "Australia's finest"), guitarist Blackie revealing, "You have no idea how much fun we have had on this tour," before newest recruit Tim Rogers announces: "We're The Hard-Ons. This is what we do."

The Hindley Street Music Hall suffers from reverb overload with Ray Ahn pounding his bass, lost in a mop of greying hair, Blackie similarly soloing amidst a hair metal head-bang while fanboy and now frontman Tim Rogers plays a punk rock Elvis.

Shirts are peeled away to reveal dad bods early in their set, but I think it is unintentional that the next song is 'Makes Me Sick' from the last year's 'Ripper '23'.

"You guys over there," Blackie motions to the massive chandelier and asks, "do you feel comfortable under that thing?" While Ray comments: "It's good to see so many goths smiling."

As they wind up their time onstage, Tim wanders side of stage to perform his own interpretive dance while the rest of the band play out the song with a destructive musical interlude before he returns to the mic for a final howled yelp. As they leave the stage, Tim teases: "We know the set list, you don't."

When the lights dim again and the intro tape for The Damned is played, it comes to mind that I have never heard the 'Doctor Who' theme song played at this volume.

As the band assemble onstage, Captain Sensible gratefully comments: "Thank you for calling us back before we kick the bucket."

It's announced the set is going to be ' 'Strawberries' and 'Black Album' "heavy", and I note the two leaders of the band are appropriately dressed for the set – Sensible in his trademark red beret and a black and red striped shirt, while singer Dave Vanian is all in black reminiscent of the black 'Spy vs. Spy' comic character, a flair of theatricality in his use of a vintage-styled microphone.

The set that follows does focus primarily on the years 1977 to 1982, but there are inclusions from Brian James' era in the band (Sensible dedicates 'Fan Club' to the absent founding member), and last year's 'Darkadelic' does get a look in with a couple of tracks performed.

Rousing opener 'Ignite' commences the proceedings and it is not long before the acknowledgement of long-term keyboardist Monty Oxymoron dressed in what appears to be skull pyjamas when Sensible asks: "Is there room for keyboards in punk-rock?" To which Monty answers in kind by attacking his keyboard with an abstract solo before the rest of the band join in and launch into the brief 'Melody Lee'.

'Generals' sounds hurried and rushed, but is soon forgotten when bassist Paul Gray leads the band in a rendition of the catchy pop of 'Stranger On The Town'.

A couple of songs of darker themed material, 'Plan 9 Channel 7' and 'Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde', fulfil the horror schlock befitting their name and the goth contingent in the audience.

When Vanian defers to Sensible to sing the contrasting positivity of 'Life Goes On', he feigns surprise, and afterwards comments: "I wrote that one when I was quite depressed and it cheered me up no end."

"Beware," cries out Sensible and Vanian returns with a red nose to play the clown in the titular 'Beware Of The Clown', Sensible also wearing a red nose before the song is over.

Their cover of 'Eloise' is introduced by Sensible as "a song we wrote on the way to the show today," with Vanian adding "a folk tune". Maybe Vanian can't quite hit the high notes in 'Eloise' anymore, but that doesn't take away from the experience as a whole.

During the rockabilly goth of 'The Shadow Of Love', Vanian prowls the stage at times seeming like a shadow shaped like a man.

The schizophrenic 'Invisible Man' might contain the lyric 'Look at me nothing but a faded memory,' but this is far from autobiographical as there is no let down with 'Noise, Noise, Noise' and the raucous, cacophonous chanted 'Love Song', Rat Scabies relentlessly pounding his kit, the audience appropriately incensed. This is not usually the energy that comes from an audience and band alike three quarters through a set.

Early classics are left for last, 'Neat Neat Neat' preceding 'Smash It Up', the melancholic instrumental opening leading into the more familiar body and this portion of the set concludes with Sensible commenting, "we were The Damned".

For the first of two encores, they return with a manageable truncated 'Curtain Call' (the recorded version is over a quarter of an hour), Rat's drum solo outro leading into the classic 'New Rose', and then a second encore consisting of a tribute to their forebears, MC5's 'Looking At You' extended into a Doors-like epic.

Someone calls out "Wayne Kramer" to which Vanian responds by pointing into the audience and says, "If you know the end why do I bother?" and the band launch back into the song with gusto, ending the night on a high.

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