40 Years of Machine Gun Etiquette: The Damned Live At House of Blues Chicago With X and The Detroit Cobras
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
When Punk was truly PUNK, The Damned formed in 1976.
Fast forward to now, the band is currently on a tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of their third album Machine Gun Etiquette, which brought The Damned to House of Blues Chicago on Thursday, May 30th.
Still as debonair and renegade cool as he was back then, lead singer Dave Vanian showed he still has that dangerous, sonic baritone at age 62. Softening Vanian’s dangerous vocals were lead guitarist Captain Sensible’s goofy and light hearted stage antics and keyboardist Monty Oxymoron’s eccentric looks and otherworldly hair. Finishing off the lineup with Pinch on drums and Paul Gray on bass, The Damned are still relentless in approach and might. Pushing forth with the terrific songs from Machine Gun Etiquette, and then onto other Damned nuggets such as "Liar,” "So Messed Up," and of course the iconic "Street of Dreams." Man, what a show.
For opener X, an awesome band from Los Angeles, celebrated over four decades of quintessential L.A punk with their performance. John Doe, Exene Cervenka, D.J. Bonebrake on drums, and rockabilly veteran Billy Zoom on guitar firing off riff and riff like he's channeling Chet Atkins and Eddie Cochran all rolled up into one-- left the audience in complete, splendid awe.
And with Billy Zoom coming off his stool for a bit on baritone sax, and some vibraphone added in to close their set, it left the audience wondering- what the hell just happened? Can we all just take a breath and rewind the tape for a minute?
Confounding and awesome confusion prevails, because the experiment and intuitive improvisation works- on many levels. The X are it man, making for a double whopper of music along with The Damned. X is always a blast, like last summer for Riot Fest Chicago, John Doe and Exene Cervenka gave one of the best interviewers JBTV did for the festival. They never ever disappoint.
As for the other openers The Detroit Cobras, let's just say things get outta hand quickly. From the first couple of notes onstage, lead singer Rachel Nagy literally tumbled right into me. Laughing out loud, kinda embarrassed and smiling, she proceeded to sing the first song lying down on the stage.
Nagy is something else. All party and not much stage banter talk. She apologized for the fall from the drum riser, and blamed the fall on her high heel boots. Which she took off, socks included, and proceeded the rest of the set barefoot. With other original player Mary Ramirez on all things rockabilly guitar, they more than made up for all the miscues.
After all, it's rock n' roll baby.
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