The Damned came back to haunt us with their sound this Halloween season at KK’s Steel Mill, in preparation for their Night of a Thousand Vampires gig that would follow at the London Palladium a few days later. I travelled by bus to the Wolverhampton venue, eighteen and alone, preparing to see one of my favourite bands for the first time and probably wet myself with excitement…. at a punk gig full of fifty year olds all clad in black.
‘Ladies and Gentleman, how do’… Vanian’s voice rumbled through the dry ice as the haunting piano seeped in. Gothic anticipation was soon split in two with shrieks from the band and their whaling instruments in Love Song. The first skinhead fired himself onto the scene, immediately igniting the moshpit front and centre. The same energy seemed to occupy Sensible as his wicked grin took pleasure in making the guitar squeal.
The set was strongly dominated by Machine Gun Etiquette classics like Smash It Up and the enchanting Plan 9 Channel 7, but more recent beauties like Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow were performed, in which I think Vanian’s deep, theatrical voice is heard at its most beautiful.
With wide eyes and an even wider grin, I marvelled at them, but just twisting my heels and nodding my head wasn’t enough, so when New Rose exploded, I dived wildly into the bounding men, resigning myself to their animal ways. Slaves to the banging drum beat, we were beckoned to recklessness. I could’ve done with an inhaler but I hyperventilated on.
The raging punk spirit struck me at first in an almost threatening way, but there was a great sense of peace as I realised that this was a shared emotion, hungry for the rush of the music’s adrenaline and no-one was out to harm, despite the flailing hooks and jabs sparking off the group. It was beautiful.
There’s definitely a comfort in seeing ‘old’ bands play as if they’d never aged. Maybe Vanian does drink the blood of virgins. Or perhaps he preferred the man in the audience who exposed his neck and bellowed, ‘Oi Vanian, chew on this!’ It was the absolute highlight of the evening and I had a bloody good time.