Fun-punk nite in ol’ Falmouth town kicked off with sitting in the Pavilion Gardens listening to Eddie Tudor doing his soundcheck, as punters of a certain age rolled in to mingle with the oldest road crew I’ve ever seen. Lotsa very new looking SLF t-shirts on view. Ford Ka drivers who really shouldn’t be teaming that foot-long ponytail with those massive mail-order Frankengoth boots. Bald – not shaven – heads. The revolution has failed, no shit.
Still, Eddie immediately set about reminding me that I was here to enjoy myself, not muse upon just how fucking old I am. But time, as any quantum physicist worth his sodium will tell you, is a dimension. The last time I saw Ed was about 25 years ago, when he played Brixton with King Kurt. Tonight, he’s on his own and no one’s chucking offal around. He’s a lot of fun, too – warbling his way through a set of rockin’ covers, old favourites and new songs about Black Jacks (the sweeties) and his nephew Jeremy’s travails with the little plastic moustache from the Christmas cracker.
Ed reiterated UK punk’s historic link with the music hall – he told a few gags, got us all to warble along for ‘Who Killed Bambi’ and ‘Swords of a Thousand Men’, and basically kept the old punks home inmates happy until the deals-on-wheels charabanc rolled around. He’s been around long enough to be considered a national treasure, so let’s go with it.
Whereas Ed’s always been a hoot, the Damned – oddly, considering their ‘goodtime’ ethos – have always carried more complex baggage, largely due to having come under the cultural gaze of musicologists and other folk who could do with getting out more often. Then there’s the Rat Scabies issue. He may have been gone for a decade, but I’ve not seen the Damned since Brockwell Park in the early 1980s, and my associations are entirely bound up with the first four albums and all that noise. There’s a new album out too, so I figured there’d be a slew of contemporary material that’d undermine my sepia memories of clambering over smashed seats at the Rainbow to get down the front and chuck myself about. On balance, I reckoned it’d be best to just view the whole thing as an exercise in soup-in-a-basket entertainment.
Which was pretty much how it proved to be, aside from a muted/jazzy bridge section to ‘Neat Neat Neat’ all the old faves sounded pretty much as I remember them, both Vanian (who’s thankfully ditched the silly pencil ‘tache and seems to have been working out) and Sensible look almost exactly the same, and while the new stuff was a bit tame for my palate, they didn’t play more than a couple of tracks from the So Who’s Paranoid LP. As for the junior partners, the rhythm section of Pinch and Stu West were unfussy and effective, while keyboard loon Monty (a ringer for Hugh Fearnly-Whittigstall) had the jolly-up set top maximum.
Touchingly, ahead of 2001’s ‘Neverland’, the Captain paid tribute to Michael Jackson, ‘better than listening to Weller’. You can say that about listening to a tramp following thorough, but we all tittered. As the quintet bashed their way through a 100-minute set that included most people’s favourites (‘Wait for the Blackout’ and ‘Second Time Around’ being the only notable omissions) a lively pit largely comprised of the 45-54 demographic formed down the front. As the haze of Ventolin hung above their heads, I realised why the Damned have little use for dry ice.
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(*I think that’s what he said, I’m guessing, mind you)
Review & photo by Dick