The Damned with Tiger Army at the Horseshoe, October 5. Tickets: $25. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNN
Dave Vanian, frontman for the Damned, got beaned in the head with a bottle while onstage recently. So everyone had to carry their drinks around in plastic cups at the Horseshoe Saturday night, giving the gig the atmosphere of an all-ages kiddie punk show. The band would simply not play if there was any glass in the room. An understandable precaution, if not a very old-skool punk rock one.
But as we waited an hour between sets while being subjected to elevator lounge music, it began to feel as if somebody somewhere was being just a teensy bit precious.
The evening had started off on a high note with a bounding burst of psychobilly from Tiger Army, a California trio who, from the looks of it, keep tattoo parlours and the hairstyling products industry in business. The between-song banter could use a little sprucing up: how many times can you point out that this is your first visit to Canada and say, "This song goes out to you guys"? But each tune was tight and shakin', and Rob Peltier is terribly amusing to watch bustin' out all rock-and-roll on the stand-up bass. And his mohawk didn't even move once!
Then came the interminable wait, during which some guy across from me got to yawning, so I started yawning and then fell asleep. By the time I awoke, the atmosphere in the room had gone from high-energy to impatient to slightly annoyed.
Still, the Damned managed to wake things up, launching into New Rose from 1977's Damned Damned Damned and playing out their entire career up through their latest, Grave Disorder.
Patricia Morrison is an iconic presence onstage, as much for her bass lines as for her historic status as ex-Sisters of Mercy and Gun Club bassist. And Captain Sensible is comic relief in the form of a fashion crime.
With Vanian's signature throaty boom presiding, the Damned have not strayed far from their original musical path over the years. Even the newer songs have that nostalgic feel. Add a dose of goth punk pretension that went out around the same time as fetish cafés and the Soviet menace and the whole experience is one of stepping back into another era.
It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.