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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:08 am 
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Location: Pak Kok Village
The Damned in Concert at Grappas: 31/1/2012

Review by Nick the Bookman
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I've got a hell warm feeling that tonight's debut concert by The Damned at Grappas is going to be an early front-runner for Show Of The Year. Although, when I rock up to Grappas shortly before 2000 hours, it's puzzling to see so few people waiting outside. What's happening? Bump into Dave McCurdy and Phil waiting for their mates. Brief natter about enjoying the Maxi Priest concert at the Ko Shan Theatre back in the mists of the Pre-Hangover Days. They also solve the mystery of the missing audience. Everyone is already inside. So, down the stairs to Grappas.

The Damned gig is co-presented by The Underground and Oliver of D-Vision International. I think Olivier flashed the cash to bring them here and Chris B. and the Underground crew are the organising muscle to make sure that all runs tickety-boo. Clifton is on the door. Asks if I need a ticket. Got it already. No problem. In you go. Quite a few Lamma people are among the crowd tonight. Kath and Darren. Simon and friends. Billy. Chunny and Dave. Magnus. Ollie the lawyer. Steve Cray and Tai-Chi Les among others. My old RTHK colleague Cliff Bale is here. We've crossed paths amicably at Clockenflap and Deerhoof. And Mogwai. No surprise to either of us that the other is here. Keith from The Sleeves has arrived as well. Haven't seen him since Clockenflap. He told me he was "damned if I'm missing The Damned". And he's here. So he isn't and he didn't. Anyway, time for the entertainment to begin.

Chris B is up on stage speaking in tongues. Fluidly merging English and Cantonese in a non stop spiel of information and propaganda. The opening act is The Shadow (from Houston, Texas). I've got a mental image of mysterious rockers, draped in cowls and robes, conducting the equivalent of The Trips Festival with free beakers of acid punch for the wildly salivating audience. Before ramming the speakers up to 11 and searing our brains with psyche-garage licks from the demented days of Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators. Ju-ju jug sounds. Possibly laced with eerie theremin and channeling old 50's/60's b-n-w sci-fi and horror flix. Tunes like Roky's "Stand For The Fire Demon", "Creature With The Atom Brain", "I Walked With A Zombie", "Heavy Hammer" and well, you get the idea. Something Stygian or Lovecraftian even. Worthy of the vibe and message evident in the name The Shadow. Or, they'll be a basic girly band with a slightly fuzz-frazzled take on pop rock...

The Shadow turns out to be a quartet. Two guys. Nick the manic drummer and Henrik the stoic guitarist. Lady vocalist is Vickie(?). Lady bassist is Yan, a local stalwart of the scene. Taking time out from her "day" job in local band Logo to help out The Shadow as their bassist for the night. The original band member is not here. I'm prepared to make allowances if the performance is patchy as Yan is very much last-minute. Not a lot of time for practise. Unfortunately, their performance is not a mind-melting display of pyrotechnic prowess. Vickie is a so-so singer whose dancing is at odds with her vocal display. She looks like she should be fronting a Filipino up-and-coming bar band. And I'm pondering just how in the hell did she get to Houston? Steve is not impressed. Les wonders if they can play another song. My notes say that even their distortion sounds clean. Not enough scuzzy feedback and delay. Aah, maybe they're jet lagged and having an off key show.. At least it's not "My Heart Will Go On". Or the Bryan Adams theme tune from Robin Hood. And their performance is over in 40 minutes.

It's 2145 and The Damned are coming on stage. The quintet comprises Pinch the drummer. A dark tee-shirt, shorts and hefty tattoos. Stu the bassist in a red/black striped tee-shirt and dark trousers. . Monty on keyboards. He reminds me of Viv Savage from Spinal Tap. With Howard Marks's hairdo. Casual shirt and coat/trousers combo. Captain Sensible in flufffy pink/white striped top with "Freak" emblazoned on his chest. Vertical black-white stripe trews. Fluffy pink beret and large white glasses. He's the gothpunk-manic guitarist. And then Dave Vanian whose Damned career is 37 years and counting. He's spiffily dressed. Nice dark grey suit. White shirt. Handkerchief and tie. Dressed to impress like a singing Kray Brother. And sinister black gloves.

"Hello! Wossup HK? How you all doing? You're a lovely looking audience!" says a clearly delighted Captain Sensible as the band blast through a rampaging rolling "Blackout" as their opening number. The audience is ensnared and rapt from note one. The pleasure factor is maintained effortlessly all night. It takes a few songs before the moshpit front and centre of the stage starts rocking and reeling. But a hapful hefty heaving time is had by all and sundry. The upper balcony level is jammed with punters as well. Probably about 500 plus crammed into Grappas tonight.

Basically, I consider this show to be Psychedelic Cabaret at its finest. The Damned always prided themselves on not being po-faced punk fuckers who can't play worth a damn, but can only gob copiously for Great Britain. They most certainly can play. This incarnation of the band has been together nigh on a decade. Stu later tells me that the show experience works so well because everyone is comfortable and compatible with each other. On and off stage. There's a fabulous back history of tunes to plunder. The band is happy to josh each other along with the audience.

Monty is picked upon the most in some ways. Like Marty Feldman's Igor in 'Young Frankenstein". His keyboard playing veers from cod-opera snippets to eerie Hammer Horror noises. Grand Guignol cartoon organ. And a frenetically fast Keith Emerson jaunty solo to take up time while someone changes a guitar string Stu is bobbing about with his bass like he's under a strobe light only I can see. He works almost telepathically with Pinch. The Captain is a fiery buzz saw cartoon effect. Standing on the monitors. Hunched over his guitar. Savage riffs. Cascades of almost prog-like ripples of notes. Occasional side trips into slower goth-Americana territory like Ennio Morricone jamming with The Ramones. Dave prowls the stage and hugs himself. He croons some tunes. Rapidly barks out others. At one point he sits on the rail right in front of me. I stop taking notes and tap him on the arm. He turns around. I shake his gloved hand and mouth "thankyouthankyouthankyou". Others lean forward to touch the great man. He responds affably. Drinks a swig of red wine. And back into action on the stage.

The fourth song is "New Rose". The first punk single to be recorded and released in 1977. Along with the first punk LP "Damned, Damned, Damned". It's a high sheen version, with the original punkiness subsumed in the mix. Amorphous Andrygonous (who used to be Future Sound Of London) did a recent remix of "Falling Down" by Oasis. Noel's original vocals are buried in the new digidelic-sitar laded version, but you can hear them faintly. That's what "New Rose" is like. The original punk menace is there, but covered under a user-friendly rocking balls out crashing/merging version that is so much more... By this time, Dave's got his suit coat and tie off. By the end of the show, his shirt is unbuttoned and sweat soaked. All he needs for maximum comedy effect is an Austin Powers chest wig. Or a fucking huge bling medallion.

"Anyone like a good whipping?" asks the Captain as the band crash into "Feel The Pain". and the crowd goes boners again (sorry, that should be "bonkers",. but "boners' has a nice little s-m touch to it). There's a note perfect rendition of "Thrill Kill" with the Captain using a beer can to achieve the slide-y, bend-y notes. Augmented with Monty's organ horror-scapes of menace. It's one of the longer songs of the set. Checking my watch and conferring with Les, we discover The Damned have rattled through about 8 songs in less than half a hour. Speedy, but not rushed performances if you know what I mean. It's almost like there are several time scales in operation, overlapping and fusing as needed. At this point, someone grabs my notebook and puts a safety pin through one of the pages. Signs his handiwork with a magnificent scribble

I'm just going to throw all the remaining bits of this gig into the sonic stew. I remember the Captain asking if we remembered "The Partridge Family" And "Saturday Night Fever". And other hideous musical memories of the early 70's. He breaks into a chorus of "Staying Alive". Punctuated by Pinch hammering out a big beat on the bass drum. Then explains, it was his duty-cum-mission to start punk to rid the world of such musical atrocities as disco and the Early Seventies Top Ten Charts. The way he explained it made everything seem perfectly reasonable. Something all sane people must do. I remember hearing "Disco Man" (which was pleasant and not at all disco-ey). Well, maybe in a slight Human League type of way. With added menace. There's a brilliant version of "Eloise" which is about as close as The Damned get to channelling their inner Meat Loaf. It was their biggest ever hit. (Did The Damned also do a cover version of "Some Velvet Morning" by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood? I vaguely recall some goth Western type video. Maybe it was The Mission.)

I'm wondering if Captain Sensible will perform "Happy Talk" or "Wot". Short answer. No. He asks everyone to download it/them from I-tunes 'because I need the bloody money". And did I mention the film crew of one. Wezzle(?) was hired to shoot a brief documentary of this leg of the tour, and is wondering up and down the mosh pit rail getting the necessary shots. Dave comes over to me again and guest duets with the crowd. Hopefully, we're in the picture. Kenny, a blonde haired David St. Hubbins look alike (also a Spinal Tap reference) asks if we made it on film.

And, then pretty much all of a sudden, the show is over. It's about 2230. The band are delighted with the gig and the Captain singles out Olivier for special praise. Where is he? Only front and centre in the mosh pit. He concludes by asking "Please invite us back again". The Damned arrived in HK from a short tour that included Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Which is hilarious in retrospect, because earlier the Captain complimented the audience of being able to speak English. He also asked for a mass yodel in memory of the late Sir Jimmy Saville. Which was sort of fumbled. Never mind. We tried.

And,afterwards?. Well, afterwards, the band minus Dave all came out to chat with the fans. Sign autographs, Pose for pictures. I've got a semi-autographed set list (the Captain and Stu). I've given Monty one of my Nixmixes for the band to enjoy. I've discovered the Captain and I are both 57. We both like psychedelic music. He's a together dude, Not an acid-fried Neil Young Ones. There are some gorgeous fluffy young ladies, liberally adorned with tattoos, who are asking the band to sign their quivering flesh. They manage to get the full complement of band tattoos. Dave doesn't come out, but he does sign mementos that are brought to him. Gentlemen, it was a pleasure and a joy and a lovely lark to be present at your debut HK concert. And to meet you afterwards. Here's hoping it isn't another 37 years before you return. And I've pretty much run out of scrambled, time-bent memories to jot down in this hither-and-yon fashion. So, 'til the next gig... ntb

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