Singer Dave Vanian of The Damned (all photos and video by Robert Hanna)
Keyboardist Monty Oxy Moron (right) of The Damned
Few bands have had as much over-arching influence, yet have spent as little time in the spotlight as UK punk pioneers The Damned. Beginning their career at the forefront of the fledgling punk movement in the late ’70s, The Damned continuously reinvented and reshaped their sound with every release over the course of 35 years, and are certainly the longest lasting punk band of their kind. The Damned’s gothic influence is what set them apart from the more street-oriented sounds of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones, and their career embarked down much darker and more orchestrated territory as they progressed. For some reason, they are often understated when people look back on the punk movement, regardless of the fact that their music opened the doors for much of the goth, hardcore, and post-punk bands to immediately follow in years to come, all of which (The Cure, Misfits, Joy Division) cite The Damned as a contemporary influence. The Damned were the first UK punk band to tour the US, and their faster tempos largely helped influence and shape hardcore punk of the West Coast in the early ’80s. Although their lineup also fluctuated and became something of a revolving door of a rhythm section, singer Dave Vanian and his signature croon remained constant throughout their tenure.
Captain Sensible of The Damned
This tour signified The Damned’s 35th Anniversary, and to celebrate they performed their entire seminal 1977 debut album Damned Damned Damned, as well as their mid-career transitional record, The Black Album. Luckily the band was able to avoid the visa complications that caused the cancellation of their US tour last year, and their performance marked their first show in Seattle since 2001. With iconic guitarist Captain Sensible donning his once trademark red beret, a denim Union Jack-adorned vest and zebra print pants, it appeared as if he had stepped into a time machine from 1977 and came out in present day Seattle on the other side. Immediately the band burst into Damned Damned Damned, and the wooden floorboards of the Showbox were rumbling from the excited crowd’s pogoing to their hit single “Neat Neat Neat.” After the first set the band took a quick intermission and wardrobe change and emerged to play The Black Album, as well as a few select tracks from Machine Gun Etiquette. Vanian certainly knows how to command a stage, and the band’s tongue-in-cheek humor and inescapable charisma permeated both sets. While the group didn’t play some expected songs like “Stab Your Back,” and “Smash It Up,” they did encore with “Love Song,” and “Anti-Pope,” illustrating again that The Damned do exactly what they want to do and nothing more.
Dave Vanian of The Damned
Opening the evening were Seattle’s premier powerpop revivalists The Cute Lepers, who have been quite active in Seattle’s music scene since their inception in 2007. Formed by frontman Steve E. Nix of The Briefs, The Cute Lepers take equal cues from groups like The Buzzcocks and The Jam, and play well-crafted, energetic rock embellished with tambourine hits and Nix’s percussive guitar style. Recently the group won Best Punk Album from the Independent Music Awards for their LP Modern Music.
Steve E. Nix (center) of The Cute Lepers
The Cute Lepers live at Showbox Market