Sunday, June 2, 2024

Friday night with The Damned at Hammerstein Ballroom

Photos by Stacie Joy

On Friday night, The Damned returned to NYC to play a show billed as the Black Strawberry Ball at Hammerstein Ballroom.

With Rat Scabies back behind the drums, this version of the band who has seen many lineup changes through the years — David Vanian, Captain Sensible, Paul Gray (and joined by 1999-era recruit Monty Oxymoron on keyboards) — performed together for the first time since 1989. 

The setlist was heavy from the 1980s albums this core group helped create, including "Ignite" (Strawberries), "The History of the World (Part 1)" (The Black Album) and an EVG favorite, "Life Goes On" (Strawberries). Their familiar singles — "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," Neat Neat Neat," and "Smash It Up" came in loud and fast near the end of the two-hour set in front of an appreciative crowd. (The encore included "New Rose" and an MC5 cover, "Looking at You.")

As our friends at Academy Records on 12th Street noted in an Instagram post: 
Of course, we're all about recorded music on round pieces of plastic but please don't sleep on all the great live music that is out there. Like the Damned, who are still kicking ass after 48 years together and back with original drummer Rat Scabies! Living in NYC can be a real grind but then you get to experience things like this. 
At this point, there isn't a lot left for The Damned to prove (honors include being the first UK punk band to release an album, Damned Damned Damned, in 1977), and it would have been easy to lean on the hits and get back on the bus for the next stop. 

However, this show rolled merrily along, energetically propelled by the return of Rat Scabies, and the band sounded as energized as we've seen them on several tours. 

 A few scenes from upfront... starting with lead singer David Vanian...
... Captain Sensible...
... bassist Paul Gray ...
... Rat Scabies...
... and keyboardist Monty Oxymoron...
Previously on EV Grieve

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