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The Damned with The Bellrays and Electric Frankenstein - Theater of the Living Arts (Philadelphia, PA) - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

16 May 2009

The only other time I saw THE DAMNED was back in the fall of 2002. They were touring for their album Grave Disaster, which was already a year old at the time. While I wasn’t a big fan of that album, the show was fantastic. They combined early punk gems like “Neat Neat Neat” (reworked with a long instrumental section in the middle) with later early ’80s album cuts like “13th Floor Vendetta” and “Under the Floor Again”. We even got obscurities like “Disco Man” and “Nasty”.

This time around, they opened with 3 straight from Machine Gun Etiquette (“Love Song”, the title track and “Antipope”; wow!) and proceeded to play a setlist that concentrated heavily on that record (“Melody Lee” was also played during the main set and we got “Noise Noise Noise” and parts 1 and 2 of “Smash It Up” during the encore) and the 1st album (“Neat Neat Neat,” “New Rose,” “I Fall” and “Fish”). They also played “Stretcher Case,” “Wait for the Blackout” (it was the 1st song in the encore), “Disco Man,” “Ignite” and “Alone Again Or” though oddly they didn’t mention that it was a tribute to either ARTHUR LEE or BRYAN MACLEAN as they had on previous tour spots. They also did 3-4 new songs from their recently released So, Who’s Paranoid?. Even though I like all of these songs, it definitely broke up the distinctly late ’70s/early ’80s feel of the show and as can be imagined, the half-capacity crowd’s enthusiasm waned.

Overall, though, I thought it was a very good show. I didn’t mind that it was oriented a bit more towards their punk-era material than towards their ’80s post-punk/goth incarnations since I love both of those periods. CAPTAIN SENSIBLE said that it might be the last time they come through Philly. Hmmm. I wonder if they’re thinking of hanging it up after they promote So, Who’s Paranoid? It would be a shame because it think it’s their best album in a very long time.

I would’ve enjoyed it even more had the sound mix been halfway decent. The sound of the TLA is iffy at best, but last night’s mix was abominable for both The Damned and openers THE BELLRAYS, who were good though a bit rushed. It felt like they were trying to get through their set by playing as many of their songs as fast as possible and as such, some of the subtleties that I imagine can be found on their records. This was my 1st exposure to them though I’d seen singer LISA KEKOULA sing with DKT/MC5 and knew what a force of nature she is. It also didn’t help that I was in balcony for their set. I went downstairs to the floor level and stood close enough for The Damned to sort of hear what they were doing, though. This leads me to another criticism of the venue. I got there at 8:40 and the doors were at 8 PM. What I didn’t know was that the first band, ELECTRIC FRANKENSTEIN, had already played! That’s a ridiculously early start time that rivals Roseland in New York. Granted, I’m generally a fan of early start times. I can’t stand it when shows don’t even start until 10 PM on a weeknight, but in this case how many people even saw them? I’d wanted to see them and even got there (what I thought was) reasonably early. Anyway I felt bad for them since not that many people were even at the venue yet when The Bellrays (the evening’s second band) took the stage. Honestly I thought that Electric Frankenstein were gonna go on before I realized it was time for The Damned!


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