Cardiff Point
16 December 2008

Thirty years ago I stood nervously waiting to enter a punk club in Cardiff that was located above a porn cinema, ready to see one of my favourite bands in the still relatively new music genre that was punk rock. Little did I know that three decades on I would be entering a converted church in Cardiff, considerably wider of girth, greyer of hair, but nonetheless still as immature and once again going to see the same band-The Damned.
As the band take to the stage it seems like half a life time passed in an instant.  Captain Sensible, tall and slim, practically bounced towards the audience resplendent in trade mark red beret, shades and star spangled jeans. Whilst David Vanian followed, coolly and unruffled, in a gigolo suit, dickey bow, cummerbund, Cuban heels, and sporting a wafer thin Clark Gable moustache. The remaining band members trooped on but in truth they, and the audience, knew who the true stars of this band are.

Top of the Pops, 6.12.79

With a new album to promote – the first in seven years – they launch into new track “Maid for Pleasure” and the night is off and running. The sizeable crowd, of varying ages, lap it all up, but these old pros are also clever enough to intersperse tried and tested favourites, from virtually all of their ten albums, into the long and enjoyable set. Without the benefit of a set list I have had to rely on a Strongbow addled memory, but over the course of the next 100 minutes we are treated to new songs “Natures Dark Passions”, “Shallow Diamonds”, “Perfect Sunday” “Nothing” and a spine tingling “Dr Woofenstien”, a song that would have quite comfortably have sat on one of their earliest releases “The Black Album”.
However most people were waiting for the standard Damned tracks and were not disappointed as they took numbers liberally from all of their first five long playing releases. “Fan Club”, and the history making first UK punk single “New Rose” from their debut recording, “Stretcher Case” from their less well received second offering “Music For Pleasure” (how much better would this record have been if their original choice of producer Syd Barrett had actually taken the helm?), “Second Time Around” “Love Song” and “Smash It Up” from career resurrecting “Machine Gun Etiquette”. The forgotten majesty of “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” from probably the world’s first Goth record “The Black Album”, and “Ignite” from 1982’s “Strawberries”. Also, and presumably because of the time of year, they gave an airing to their rarely played Xmas single “There Ain’t No Sanity Clause”.

Pic (With Paul Gray on bass)by Big Al, Cardiff, 16.12.08

Special mention should be made of their version of “Neat, Neat, Neat” and for the fact that for one night only this track had 4 (yes count ‘em) bass players. Some of you may be aware that Captain Sensible originally played bass with the group, but moved to lead guitar when Brian James jumped ship, and obviously the incumbent bassist Stu West was present. However in the long and varied history of the group there have actually been two Welsh bass players, both of whom were present tonight – Paul Gray and Bryn Merrick. The former left the band after suffering tinnitus, but I was pleased to see that he did not appear to have any adverse reaction tonight. Bryn Merrick looked like he had come just as an audience member, and I would suggest that he had sampled more than one pint of the local brew, before the Captain’s invitation coaked him in rather a wobbly manner, up onto stage. And so a multiple orgasm of bass players provided a unique intro to the song, with time being given mid song for each to show their considerable fret related talents. As The Captain stated at the songs conclusion, it was like Prog Rock had never gone away.
The band genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves and even having left the stage for the last time, the Captain still came back to sing along to “Happy Talk”, whilst performing a strip that ultimately led to an airing for what he proudly assured us was his “Primark” underpants.
Top night, top band and here’s to the next 30 years…