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Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Punk was never intended to last more than a few months, purists would argue that it didn’t, yet here we are 30 years on and The Damned, the band that released the first official punk single in October 1976, are still treading the boards. The boards they are treading tonight are in the converted church in Cardiff Bay known as The Point.

On the whole, that first wave of punk bands burned furiously with intense light and heat, then disappeared. Some burned out in a blaze of glory, some kept going and faded away after becoming a shadow of their former selves. One or two have reformed recently and can put on a half decent show, some have reformed and are frankly embarrassing. The Damned however have kept on going (apart from a brief split in ’78 then reforming before many of the bands now considered ‘classic’ had even formed) and have matured with age, like a fine wine. After a few dodgy periods when the Captain was not with the band, they are now on fire, as good now as they ever were.

They are not quite what you would call a punk band anymore, there is nothing rough and ready about them, they are a lean mean rock machine. Sensible and Vanian strut the stage like the old pros they are. Vanian working the audience, lifting them up and down as and when required. Sensible is still the riffmeister, but at the same time he demonstrates guitar work of the sort that would have been displayed by the bands that punk was supposed to destroy, throwing in solos to extend classics like ‘I feel Alright’ and ‘Neat Neat Neat’ into psychedelic masterpieces, but without losing the hungry edge of the originals.

The banter between Sensible and the crowd is not quite as full on as it was all those years ago when the whole crowd would be chanting ‘Sensible’s a wanker’ and he would be having ago at people for being ugly, but there is enough to keep a smile on the face and Tony Blair is now the victim of the venom that was once directed at Thatcher and Diana. The crowd itself is on the whole fairly ‘mature’, with a mix of ex-punks that are still on the scene but have moved with the time; ex-punks that married, had kids, settled down and now only go out to se reformed bands from their youth; and punks who have not moved on at all since their youth and just look fatter and balder.

‘New Rose’, that famous first punk single, is knocked out as the second number to keep people from asking for it all night. We are then treated to a host of classics such as ‘Smash It Up’, ‘Love Song’, ‘Anti-Pope’, ‘Wait For The Blackout’, together with newer tracks such as ‘Little Miss Disaster’ and covers such as Love’s ‘Alone Again Or’ and the MC5’s ‘Jet Boy Jet Girl’. They even do ‘When I Fall’ on request, even though stand in bass player Stu has never played it before.

How is that they have survived and kept their credibility? Well, they have all the energy and fire they had all those years ago but they have had the sensibility to experiment and progress, dabbling with psychedelia and some how managing to launch the Goth genre without ever being a Goth band themselves. Of all the old guard of that first wave of punk, the Damned are the only band that have survived in tact. Many are still at it, but are only worth catching for nostalgia purposes, the Damned however are as relevant now as any contemporary band. Long may they continue.



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