There Aint No Sanity Clause
The Damned – Manchester Ritz 8/12/12
Since it's refurb the Ritz in Manchester is a great venue; the view is fantastic from pretty much everywhere and the sound is markedly better than the smaller Academy venues. It's just as well that the view is good as the venue is packed out tonight. This in itself is great to see as those of us that have been following this band for a long time will remember seeing them play to just a couple of hundred at times in the mid 90s.
If you thought The Damned were a bunch of has beens just going through the motions then you couldn't be more wrong and if anything they are livelier and more energetic than I've seen them for some time. There's only one slight problem tonight in that the lead vocals are too quiet at times but overall the sound is pretty good; support band The Dickies had the same problem but if you love the sound of distorted guitar in full flight then you won't be complaining!
The set tonight is excellent; The Damned have such a large back catalogue that it's easy for sections of it to get missed out altogether but tonight they manage to cover most eras of their 35 year career. From opener Under The Wheels to the final chord of Smash It Up the crowd are with them every step of the way. Captain Sensible is his usual self, beaming away and delivering a really tight performance, which is not something we've always been able to say about him. This is particularly evident on surprise inclusion Grimly Fiendish when he completely nails the guitar solo. Vanian's voice is as strong as ever and visually he doesn't seem to have aged at all in the last 20 years!
Having struggled with it myself, the opening to Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde raises a wry smile as Captain struggles to get it quite right but it's probably the only flaw in his performance tonight. It's good to hear a couple of songs from the underrated Grave Disorder album with Democracy and She both getting an airing. Keyboard player Monty is well known for his stage antics but tonight he seems to have extra bounce as he leaps around in frantic fashion whenever he is not tied to his instrument. It's all part of what makes The Damned such a great band; they are the sum of their individual parts and without any one of them it wouldn't be quite the same.
The set is not without the old classics of course and they are greeted like old friends by crowd with Neat Neat Neat, Noise Noise Noise, Antipope, Love Song, New Rose and Ignite all finding the crowd in fine voice. What's really good to hear tonight though are the songs that don't get out much! Now don't get me wrong, they aren't necessarily the best songs and in the case of Lovely Money and There Aint No Sanity Clause they don't really work too well but it's the fact that it's so unusual to hear them that means it really doesn't matter. By comparison Stranger On The Town and White Rabbit sound great and by the time they go off stage for the first time it's already been a highly entertaining performance.
The encore takes the form of the aforementioned Lovely Money, the old MC5 classic Looking At You and set closer Smash It Up , the latter seeing the front rows erupt into a sea of bouncing bodies. The 10.30pm curfew means it's over too soon really but it's been a great performance from a band that have re-found their way and we can only hope that they take this kind of energy into the studio for a new album.