Punk stalwarts, all-around top blokes and men of advancing years gathered at The Forum in Kentish Town on 17 February to witness what was one of those ‘second coming’ moments. Paul Gray, bass player extraordinaire, was once again in this The Damned’s line-up. It was a return to the form of the late 70s and early 80s that, for many, really defined the sound and popularity of this band.
Gray was back on his trusty Rickenbacker 4001 and making the sorts of sounds that graced The Black Album, Strawberries, and the amazing Friday the 13th EP.
The set-list was full of tracks that fully displayed Gray’s fret-frenetics and that prompted the very good and noble Captain Sensible to let us know that “it’s nice to play with a real bass player again.” He also didn’t let us forget that “it’s all about the guitar.” Where once Dave Vanian only had the Captain to compete with for the crowd’s affections, now there are two and Vanian is able to use them as perfect foils for his own onstage persona, wheeling and whirring while his vocal acrobatics filled the hall.
The crowd had aged well with the band and, despite a brand new album to renew and refresh the set-list, it is the older songs that prompted some short-term moshing and pogo-ing (a short term due to the size of the beer-bellies that somewhat restricted extended physical activity).
The crowd also got to hear Seagulls, an instrumental that (although it predates Gray’s original arrival with the band) somewhat contradicted the Captain’s earlier proclamation, being that it is all about the bass.
We got the obligatory Smash It Up at the finale and, as the onstage smiles seemed wider than they had been for a long while, it remains the case that this lot look like a 50th-anniversary tour isn’t beyond their grasp. 50 years of anarchy, chaos and destruction? We can’t wait.