Damn this was a great night! Big big thanks to Oliver for partnering up with us to bring The Damned back to Hong Kong for a fantastic show at Music Zone. Thanks to Angus for the photos. Thanks to Jimmy for the extra gear. Thanks to Prada, Laalaa, Kendrick & Susanna for all their help. Thanks to Dicky & Yan Yan for running the bar so well 🙂 Thanks to The Pansies for demonstrating why they were the perfect openers for The Damned.
Thanks to Shash for her reviews of both bands.
Thanks to Hotel Icon for so greatly accommodating the bands and all their needs – your food & hospitality tops every experience the band has ever had.
Not sure we can convince The Damned to come back in 2022, but we will try 🙂
真係無得彈﹗非常感激Oliver同我地合作帶The Damned 返黎香港Music Zone搞左一場咁精彩嘅演出。多謝負責影相嘅Angus。多謝提供額外儀器嘅Jimmy。多謝Prada, Laalaa, Kendrick 同Susanna同場協助。
多謝Dicky同Yan Yan令到酒吧有聲有色:) 多謝The Pansies嘅演出證明佢地為The Damned暖場嘅完美表演嘉賓。多謝Shash為兩隊樂隊寫樂評。
多謝Hotel Icon為樂隊提供照顧 周全嘅住宿同服務 – 你地嘅食物同熱情款待係佢地前所未遇過咁好。
雖然唔肯定我地可唔可以說服到The Damned 2022年再返黎香港演出，但我地會盡力而為架 :)
❤️ Chris B xx
2. Teenage Pariah
4. White Noise
5. Villain of the Year
6. Nail Polish
7. Model Girl
8. We Don’t Like You
9. I Wanna Be Your Dog [Stooges cover]
A large, slightly-imposing dedicated concert venue that’s blaring old rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly songs during the lull before a gig is, as I discovered on this occasion, one of my favourite situations to walk into. The guitars resonated sweetly in the hall and the groove of the music was palpable as a mix of Kim Fowley, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and Thee Milkshakes set the mood for the evening. While this prepared me for a good night’s music, it seemed to put the people that walked in during this time in the mood to drink. I say this because it’s pretty much the only explanation I can think of for why, when The Pansies walked out on stage, not one person moved from the drinking area into the non-drinking zone that was directly in front of the stage. The band started out with a grand total of three people in the area right in front of them (myself included), and I was appalled. While it’s probably not my place to chastise an audience, I’ll go out on a limb and say that I found this to be incredibly bad form and quite rude. Bad audience, don’t do it again!
However, while the band must have noticed this quite glaring lack of people, they certainly didn’t let it show during their set. And why would they, given whom they were opening for that night. Right from the get go, they were as high-energy and raucous as I expected them to be. During all my time writing reviews, I have not come across a band who background research warmed my heart more… They’ve covered the Dead Boys (!), the Stooges, Black Flag and even The Damned before, which was (literally) music to my ears, and cemented just how apposite a choice these guys were for this slot. And they quite lived up to these expectations. Their singer sounds something like Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance in tone (but has some way to go in terms of raw singing ability). There’s also a lot of wild flailing, including one very near-miss where the guitarist was almost stabbed by the upturned mic stand, so there’s no shortage of entertainment.
The guitar style ranges from most very fuzzy backgrounding, sort of a mix of Black Flag’s speed and the thudding quality of White Zombie or Misfits, and blues-tinged lead guitars, of the short-form kind perfected by Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys. The overall effect is quite like listening to an MC5 song: powerful, fast, bluesy and boisterous all girded by a wall of sound. This is best embodied in songs like Model Girl (apparently their first song) and White Noise, which came together beautifully. I also whole-heartedly approve of the guitarist’s minimal use of pedals. The prominence of their guitars was lost in the mix, though, as it came out quite muddy, so it was hard for me to delve as deep as I would’ve liked into the sound. But, everything I did hear clearly, I liked.
However, if I may offer an unsolicited suggestion, I felt like their drums aren’t quite groovy enough. When a band is this fast, it sort of sounds like they’re overproduced even during live shows. Now this would be fine if all their songs were amenable to this treatment but that isn’t the case. They have songs like Villain of the Year, a slower, more Strokes-like number, or Nail Polish, which was more Weezer-y, or the slightly more dance-punk Psycho, and this drum sound makes all the songs sound more similar than they otherwise would have. This, to me, is a terrible waste, similar in spirit to Metallica covering The Kinks’ You Really Got Me and replacing the beautiful crackling of the original guitars with a more generic distortion, and should be avoided. Were they to work on this, I feel like they may turn out to be a punkier version of local band The Sleeves, and wouldn’t we all be richer for that kind of a scene.
Finally, kudos to them for keeping the overt juvenilia to one song; the overtly ‘Young, Loud & Snotty’ We Don’t Like You. They kept the loud, rude punk song to one and even put it at the end of the set, which made it effective and very enjoyable, without overdoing the “youth” angle to the point of tiresomeness. And to finish a set like this with a pretty good cover of I Wanna Be Your Dog was a genius move and capped the set off perfectly. It was probably the best way to start this sort of show, and they did a great job in what was probably an immensely daunting situation. They’re a pretty impressive band that I hope keeps playing and developing their sound together, and are definitely worth keeping an eye on.
— Shashwati Kala
1. Street of Dreams
2. Disco Man
3. Wait for the Blackout
4. Love Song
5. Machine Gun Etiquette
7. Shadow of Love
10. Stranger on the Town
11. Neat Neat Neat
12. Alone Again Or
13. New Rose
14. I Feel Alright
15. Wot [Captain Sensible]
16. Life Goes On
17. I Fall
18. Fan Club
19. I Just Can’t Be Happy Today
21. Smash It Up
There was, predictably, a lot of anticipation that had built up in the room by the time The Damned were expected to be on, and when it seemed like they were taking longer than expected, the mood changed to a slight jitteriness…. Was there something wrong with the instruments, or equipment or the setup? Shouts of “SMASH IT UP!” started peppering the air as people started to become nervy by the wait. But, when they did finally step out on stage, the nervousness instantly seemed incredibly foolish – what were we all afraid of back two or three seconds ago? A massive cheer engulfed them as they stepped out and they launched straight into the soaring, intense Street of Dreams and then all was golden. Then there was the upbeat Disco Man followed by the mid-tempo, atmospheric Wait for the Blackout. One of the things I’ve noticed about bands that are at a stage of their career which may be termed “seasoned pros” is how they’re able to change gears almost instantly when moving from song to song. Particularly when you’re talking about a selection from a career spanning four decades that involved several stylistic changes (about-faces, really, in some cases), the difference between the songs’ styles seems even more pronounced. But the band are skilled enough to grab you by the musical scruff for every song and change the mood and the tempo completely, but in a such a commanding and effective fashion that you barely notice. The Damned belong very firmly in this category of bands, and it’s a tremendous privilege to bear witness to such utter mastery (twice, in my case).
You wouldn’t know how long they have been around were this gig the first time you heard them, though: the band was incredibly tight, and seem to have taken an ‘let’s play everything faster’ approach for this show, using faster and slightly-less elaborate arrangements for songs like Eloise and Fan Club, and it sounded great. Captain Sensible always sounded to me like he was one man who was able to simultaneously do the jobs of three guitarists, and seamlessly, and this was certainly the case here. From the moody opening of Smash It Up and Alone Again Or to the shredding of Love Song to the blistering solos of songs like Ignite, everything was done by the one man on stage and apparently flawlessly. The keyboards filled out the sound beautifully, keeping the very pacy set from feeling bare, and the drums and bass steamed along at blistering paces (and crucially, to me, perfectly in the pocket as well). However the standout to me was just how great Dave Vanian sounded; deep and resonant, his voice sounded as good or better as it ever did on any of their records, like Ian Astbury mixed with Mark Lanegan. The guitars layered around the voice to produce a really juicy sounding mix, and it added even more punch to an already great set.
The room seemed to be full of people who had seen The Damned several decades ago, some even during their nascent years, and even they appeared to be of this opinion, which really says something to how good the band are at their craft. The only song I felt fell flat a bit was Stranger on the Town which, despite the triumphant guitars, I felt was too mid-tempo and dragged on a bit. But any lost energy was injected right back into the set with a cracking rendition of Neat Neat Neat. We even got a little change of mood with Captain Sensible doing the light and poppy Wot. Even the crowd got to stretch its vocal cords a bit, as we were trained by the Captain to sing along to the the “ooohs” in Ignite. By the time the final chords of Smash it Up came crashing to earth, the band had taken us all through a tremendous journey; some of us slam-danced in the centre, others headbanged and still other alternated between a mild jig and frantic note-taking, but I think it’s probably safe to say that it was as good a show as anyone could’ve hoped for. (There’s still no Stab Your Back in that set, though, which was bittersweet to me.) Since they were here once before, I can only hope that they will come here once more and make it a hat-trick for Hong Kong; but that’s moot. What isn’t moot is that this was a first-class, tremendous show, and that we were fortunate to have seen it.
— Shashwati Kala
Photos by Angus Leung.
Poster by Dave Kerr.