Live Review: The Damned / Slim Jim Phantom – Academy, Leeds UK, 30th January 2018

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The Damned / Slim Jim Phantom

Academy, Leeds, UK - 30th January 2018

The Damned‘s musical journey has seen the quintet intent on moving forward, exploring sights and sounds way beyond their brash wide eyed beginnings in 1976, and now they’re back to do it all over again over forty years after they burst onto the UK punk scene, and a decade since their last album, So Who’s Paranoid? The current Evil Spirits UK tour precedes the release their new album of the same name and see’s the band armed with new material, and it also marks the welcome return of their legendary bass player Paul Gray. The playlist that precedes the start of the show tips it’s hat to tonight’s support act, Slim Jim Phantom of the recently reformed rockabilly trio The Stray Cats, and The Damned‘s roots with a mix of rock n roll, psyche and sixties garage.

The Leeds Academy slowly fills up prior to Slim Jim Phantom, who is also a member of Dead Men Walking and The Jack Tars with The Damned‘s Captain Sensible, who delivers a stripped down set of rockabilly that encompasses The Stray Cats and the roots of rock ‘n roll. He kicks off his set with The Stray Cats classic Rumble In Brighton, that’s retitled Rumble In Leeds for tonight’s show. The energised delivery of rock ‘n roll captures the spirit of the original era without being an anachronism, a rabble rousing C’mon Everybody, that sits somewhere between the Sex Pistols version and the Eddie Cochran original, gets a good reaction and starts to defrost the crowd in what is a decidedly chilly Leeds Academy.


Slim Jim Phantom occupies his iconic standing drumming position and tonight he is accompanied by two members borrowed from the current line up of The Pretenders, James Walbourne on guitar and Nick Wilkinson slapping the double bass, the trio hammer through a crowd pleasing set that includes Runaway Boys, The Stray Cats first single, that gets a more than welcome airing along with Rock This Town. The Stray Cats material appears alongside a well chosen set of rock ‘n roll classics that are delivered with an intensity and attitude that befits the material, and means that the Evil Spirits tour has opened with a masterclass in rock ‘n roll and rockabilly that for me is impossible to fault, and it marks a more than impressive start to tonight’s show.


Prior to The Damned‘s appearance the soundtrack moves on a decade or two and starts to include some vintage punk rock along with the 60s garage and proto punk that inevitably acts as a prelude to The Damned taking the stage. The lights eventually drop and the ominous intro music kicks in to indicate that one of punks mainstays are are ready to hit the stage. and when they do it’s straight back to 1977 with So Messed Up from their debut album, from here we’re into the opening trio from The Black Album, Wait For the Blackout, Lively Arts and Silly Kids Games, which with the return of Paul Gray, whose bass style was as much a signature of that album as anything else, sound better than ever, and with three quarters of what is arguably The Damned‘s best line up the Evil Spirits tour is already looking like something very special.


Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow, the lead single from their forthcoming album, is delivered meaning that this is the first tour in a decade to feature new material and for me it’s all the better for it, The Black Album continues to be heavily featured with the inclusion of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, which sends shivers down my spine due to the addition of the Paul Gray‘s Rickenbacker bass line. With the exception of a smattering of songs from the the new album The Damned veer across their first decade, whilst the emphasis is on the albums from Paul Gray’s first stint with The Damned, they also tap into their classic punk era and successful MCA years without batting an eyelid.


The new material in the shape of Devil In Disguise and the forthcoming album’s title track gives us the first glimpse of what to expect from the new full length and confirms that Evil Spirits will be as unpredictable as you’d expect from The Damned, for me the new songs sound like they nestle into the band’s back catalogue somewhere between Strawberries and Give Daddy The Knife Cindy, the album they recorded as Naz Nomad And The Nightmares in the mid eighties. The new material is well received by the crowd that is packed into the Leeds Academy, and has upped the anticipation for the new album, somewhat unexpectedly the number that sparks crowd surfing in Leeds tonight isn’t punk classics such as New Rose or Smash It Up, but their eighties hit, Eloise.


Dave Vanian continues to defy the years, as he swoops, glides and spins across the stage like a creature of the night half his age, Captain Sensible remains one of the clown princes of punk, and he’s clearly loving the decades of tender abuse he has received from The Damned faithful. Relative newcomers Pinch and Monty Oxymoron are now an established a part of The Damned, and with Paul Gray‘s return to the fold you have a line up that’s as strong as any they’ve fielded over the years. Tonight has skirted away from the greatest hits packages of recent tours, the addition of new material, the resurgence of interest due the inclusion of Neat Neat Neat in the Babydriver soundtrack and the fact that they are once more filling larger venues indicates that there’s still life in The Damned. 


Evil Spirits can be pre-ordered here

The Damned‘s website can be found here
Slim Jim Phantom‘s website can be found here
Photography by Steve White and you can visit his Flickr site here,
You can click on any of Steve’s photos to view a slide show of the images
The Evil Spirits tour runs until the 17th February and the remaining tour dates can be viewed here