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The Damned, Llangollen Town Hall, 17 July 2007


ImageLlangollen may be a lovely little town that is home to an International Eisteddfod, a Jazz Festival and a Thomas The Tank Engine Weekend, but I doubt you'll see its Town Hall mentioned too often in the annals of rock history. But what a great little venue! With friendly staff who said "enjoy the concert" as you entered and a capacity of approx 280 - including a small balcony - it was a great opportunity to see the nation's favourite aging punk act live and close-up.


And don't the two main / original players, Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian look great - even that close! Vanian, in black suit, black t-shirt, and James Dean-like shades, looked at least ten years younger than he is as he sang into his 50's crooner type mic stand. And it's always worth the money to see the good Captain - his gurning, grinning, tongue-pulling expressions together with his red beret, shades, and Gibson SG is punk's cartoon equivalent of Ron Mael moustached stare over his keyboard - one of rocks iconic images.


The band opened in fine form, with See Her Tonight, I Fall and New Rose from their classic 30 yr old debut coming straight after each other before they opened up the rest of their career with I Just Can't Be Happy Today and Disco Man. After this the hilites came thick and fast - History of the World, a spine tingling Generals, a rousing Love Song, whilst AntiPope and Neat Neat Neat featured lengthy psychedelic guitar interludes that saw the aging moshpit resort to taking a breather and chatting (presumably about how great this band were for balding men in their 40's to throw each other around to). There were also some great less noisy moments like 13th Floor Vendetta and the Captain's wonderful Syd-like Life Goes On, before they ended the main set in fine style with Smash It Up Pt's 1 & 2.


The band soon came back for an encore that started with Eloise, which as the Captain pointed out had been released after he had been kicked out of the band, before he ‘got equal' and performed one of his solo moments, the wonderful Ca Plain Pour Moi brother/sister that is Jet Boy Jet Girl. They followed this with Stretcher Case, a rare moment from their much maligned second LP, Music For Pleasure, that sounded VERY good it must be said, before ending with I Feel Alright - another one with a stretched out psychedelic wig out which like the rest of the show benefited from being performed in front of a rather impressive filmed backdrop.


I was going to end this report by saying that apart from their still-exciting-to-these-ears debut, I mightn't play their records as much these days, but that they're still a great live set up. However, I've played and enjoyed both Machine Gun Etiquette and The Black Album since this gig, and the beautiful looking multi-coloured vinyl 7" single - the Sensible penned Little Miss Disaster from 2005 - I purchased at the show sounds really good on initial listens. Indeed, I've got a sneaky feeling it's going to be getting some serious attention round these parts...


Author: Keith Astbury