The Damned at The Pyramids Centre, Southsea REVIEW: ‘More energised than you’d have any right to expect’

The Damned at The Pyramids Centre, Southsea, November 24, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor
The Damned at The Pyramids Centre, Southsea, November 24, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor

Forty-two years in, you could be forgiven for letting a bit of complacency creep in.

But born from punk, The Damned soon left the genre’s increasingly tight restrictions behind, and have never been ones to trade purely on nostalgia.
Frontman David Vanian emerges on stage in a none-cooler leather jacket with the collar up and shades, while Captain has abandoned his trademark red beret for a pork-pie hat.
They kick off with We’re So Nice, from new album Evil Spirits, and the set is peppered liberally with tracks from their 2018 opus. There’s good reason why it’s their best-ever charting album – their fans are loyal, and it’s an excellent album that sits well alongside the best of their catalogue.

The Damned live at The Pyramids Centre, Southsea on November 24, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor

The Damned live at The Pyramids Centre, Southsea on November 24, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor

Vanian’s vocals veer from punk barking to something akin to 1950s crooning, while Captain Sensible’s guitar is perhaps surprisingly varied – not just the manic strafing you might expect.
The set runs right across their history, from debut album Damned Damned Damned’s adrenalised hi-jinks, to the punk-prog of History The World, Part 1, led by some impressive keyboards from Monty Oxymoron, and their nearly-faithful cover of Love’s Alone Again Or.
There are jibes at Paul Weller and his ‘stupid haircut’ from Captain, and less shockingly, at Theresa May, ahead of Democracy? from 2001’s Grave Disorder.
And returning bassist Paul Gray is an incredibly agile player, his grooves sit appropriately high in the mix.
The main set finishes with as effective a one-two as you’ll find anywhere – the first ever punk single New Rose and its sequel Neat, Neat Neat, featuring an extended coda. The former is dedicated to well-known Pompey punk Brian Bartlett, who sadly died last week, earning great cheers from the packed house.
The encores highlight the breadth of their material. Curtain Call is an edited version of the side-long track from the classic double, The Black Album. It’s followed by the raucous singalong of Ignite.
The band leave the stage again before returning one final time wearing Santa hats. It’s surreal to say the least, but it’s for their ‘lost’ Christmas single, There Ain’t No Sanity Clause. They finish with a blistering run through of the appropriately raucous Smash It Up.
There’s no room for their highest charting single, Eloise, but it’s scarcely missed.
Gray’s return to the fold and a new album have left the band more energised than you’d have any right to expect at this stage of the game.