Saturday, May 16, 2009
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO-THE DAMNED, LIVE AT THE FILLMORE
My buddy Chris and I met in front of the Fillmore, but Chris suggested we get a bite to eat and hit a bar for some affordable drinks rather than "have his enjoyment of the Damned polluted by some lame-ass opening band," and return in time to see the headliners take the stage at 10PM. I thought that was a pretty good idea, so we made our way to 14th Street's Otto's Shrunken Head (after we couldn't get through the door at the nearby Beauty Bar) and instantly felt at home in its dank, no-frills, tiki-accented recesses, our spirits bolstered by a Mohawked deejay who spun some favorites from our youth, including cuts by Adam and the Ants and Devo (our mutual favorite band).
Wee frontman Dave Vanian: my vote for the best rock vocalist of the past three decades (yes, I'm serious).
But, all too soon, we had to make our way back to the show, and our timing proved quite good since we totally succeeded in missing the opening acts. About a half hour after we arrived, the Damned took the stage and proceeded to put on a show that, while not horrible by any stretch of the imagination, felt to me like a Broadway jukebox musical of the Damned's greatest hits or a tribute show a la BEATLEMANIA, only with the actual band serving as a stand-in for themselves. There was a decent enough energy to the proceedings and fans both new and old seemed to enjoy themselves, but having seen the Damned perform to much greater effect in the past I just wasn't feeling it this time around. Not helping my sense of general malaise over the whole thing was the inclusion of material from their rather dodgy most recent album, SO, WHO'S PARANOID?, and unfortunately they chose to perform some of that album's lesser numbers, most notably the fourteen-minute lysergic Syd Barrett tribute "Dark Asteroid" and the awful "Dr. Woofenstein" (they should have gone with "Little Miss Disaster" of the excellent "Maid For Pleasure").
As the show rambled on I felt like I was at a weekend school gathering where the attendees showed up to brush up on the lessons they sought to keep in their heads by chanted repetition, an experience that was the polar opposite to the joyous and balls-out performance by Devo last week in London; Devo is a still-dear first love whose presence only makes the heart grow fonder, but after the last album and this current show I can honestly say the torch I once carried for the Damned has at last become a dying ember.
Captain Sensible: animated and humorously chatty as ever, but not naked (alas).
The band's classic songs were mostly to be had on the generous playlist, but the show was just so mediocre and by the numbers that Chris and I took our leave during one of the encores and felt none the worse for having done so. This was Chris' first time seeing the Damned and he did enjoy himself, but he also understood my indifference. Nonetheless, he was glad he saw them and would probably go again, but I cannot say likewise. This show was for me the last gasp of a once glorious and fulfilling relationship that has run its course, and now both parties can go their separate ways with the fond memories of better times to cherish forever. So with that I bid good luck and God bless to the Damned. You were great and I did truly love you, but it wouldn't be a bad idea if you finally saw fit to rest on your laurels and allow your legend to be celebrated as it should be, rather than haul out a show that reduces your work to a mild and somewhat-comfortable shadow of its former self.
My final image of the live-in-concert damned: it was nice knowing ya, lads. Thanks for all the good times.