What is there to do on a Wednesday evening in Oxford? Watch TV? Go down to the pub? See the cricket?
None of the above.
Oh well, it’s raining in June again, constant pitter patter. But hey look! The Damned are in town and they’ve brought some friends with them.
We arrive at the Oxford Academy and aim for the box office, but as we are fumbling around for money I spot this grey haired Irish chap offering us two tickets he had bought from the internet. So we buy them off him for much cheaper than the venue’s price, and proceed into the building.
It turns out that he’s friends with the first act on tonight. A Mr. Henry Cluney no less. He of Stiff Little Fingers fame. To be honest I am only here because Henry is playing. His band influenced me about as much as The Clash did when I was younger. I still have every record this lot ever made, preserved in see-through plastic bags at home.
Henry takes to the stage alone with an acoustic guitar and opens his set with “Alternative Ulster”. Brilliant. It’s so good to hear these song played solo. It makes you realise what great sing along songs they are without a whole band behind them.
Then I think he played “Here We Are Nowhere”. Again, what a great song. These are songs that Jake Burns and Stiff Little Fingers don’t play live anymore and it’s a shame because I still maintaine that ‘The Inflammable Material’ album was one of the best punk records ever produced, and Henry belts his way through most of the tracks from said album.
To be fair, Mr. Cluney does mess up on a lot of the tunes, but it doesn’t matter, as most of the audience is singing along with him providing the backing vocals to such songs as “Barbed Wire Love” and “Gotta Get Away”.
Henry parted company with Stiff Little Fingers way back in 1993 and to be honest I never thought we would be lucky enough to see him play live again. As co-founding member of SLF, Henry Cluney deserves to be up there playing these songs live with the tongue in cheek humor that he provides on stage. Apparently living in America, he has been known to do a bit of stand up comedy.
Carry on Henry, you know we love you!
Watch Henry Cluney – “Wasted Life” video (opening for The Damned at the Square in Harlow on 22nd May 2009):
The Alarm take the stage and we are all of a sudden propelled back to the early 1980’s with Mike Peters the singer reminding us that 1976-77 was what it was all about. More Bruce Springsteen influence than The Clash or The Sex Pistols, The Alarm belt their way through an average set of songs and then they are gone.
The highlight of the evening is The Damned. With the audience chanting “Sensible’s a w****r” they slam into their first song, “Ladies & Gentlemen… how do”, and straight into “Love Song”.
They blast their way through a set of songs which span three decades and yet sound fresher than any of the new paper thin bands who are clogging up the summer festivals these days.
Dave Vanian, the vocalist, is looking more dapper as the years roll by. It’s hard to believe these boys are over 50 years old, but then how long do vampires live for?
Captain Sensible looks more and more like a comic strip character the older he gets, and people forget what a great rock guitarist he really is.
The Damned should be easily one of the most famous bands on the planet, what with being the only surviving original punk band from this country and giving influence to so many artists around today. They deserve their place in the Rock and Roll hall of fame, but is that really punk rock?
The Damned on amazon.co.uk
Henry Cluney Official Website
The Alarm Official Website
The Damned Official Website
By: Dave Tommo