The Damned played Big Night Live – 5/29

U.K. punk cornerstones The Damned returned to town – with founding drummer Rat Scabies in tow – for a BNL show in late May.


There’s been no general shortage of opportunities to catch The Damned over the years. The OG punks have been an active concern for most of the time between their 1976 formation and the present, and they’ve hit the road many times in many iterations during that span. They’ve played Boston alone five times in the past ten years, and that’s a higher frequency than some technically active bands that live here. Even so, this Spring’s North American run distinguished itself as a special one with a feature those other shows couldn’t quite boast: something pretty close to an original lineup.

Founding drummer Rat Scabies broke from the group in the mid-90s, which seemed a pretty permanent state of affairs until the band’s surprise announcement of his return last year. With 80s/90s-era bass player Paul Gray also rejoining the fold as of 2017, the band’s current lineup – rounded out by mainstays in vocalist Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible, plus mid-90s addition Monty Oxymoron on keys – represents the first that North America has seen of the classic Damned in more than three decades. The last time I caught the band was on their 40th anniversary tour about 6 years back, and these shows mark the re-addition of two veteran members in the time since. How many still-kicking acts from punk’s genesis era can make that kind of claim?

While that 40-years version of the band also sounded great back in 2017, there was definitely a distinct energy at work with Scabies and Gray back behind the rhythm section at Big Night Live. I didn’t end up being able to stay for the whole show (long story), but the chunk I caught saw the fivesome diving into both the lean punk rock and the gothic explorations of their classic 70s and 80s records with aplomb. The interplay between the Lugosi-esque Vanian and his spry, high-energy foil in the Captain was entertaining as ever, and the mood on stage and amid the packed crowd was jubilant through and through.

Check out a gallery from the gig below.