It is by sheer coincidence that both The Damned and the Paradise, one of Boston’s most legendary concert venues, are celebrating 40 years of existence.
It is by sheer coincidence that both The Damned and the Paradise, one of Boston’s most legendary concert venues, are celebrating 40 years of existence. For any band or venue, it’s a significant accomplishment. Both have proven their vitality and worth over the years and after tonight’s concert, put up an admirable argument in favor of extending their tenure.
Unsurprisingly, the show was sold out months in advance. Boston loves a good rock show, especially those that hearken back to the wild building blocks of the city’s punk legacy. In an odd decision, doors opened at an early 6:30 PM – a choice more than likely made due to the club dropping its 18+ policy for the night. It was a nice gesture from the band, but those who arrived early faced a lengthy wait between doors and the show.
Luckily, The BellRays opened with a blistering set of high energy rock and roll that reminded recalled the MC5’s manic sloganeering power. With a career reaching back into the early ‘90s, singer Lisa Kekaula commanded the stage and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. By the time The BellRays started, the Paradise was already packed to the rafters. Unfortunately, club events, especially when sold-out, have become increasingly over-booked, so the wait between acts could get uncomfortable. But kudos to whoever picked the between acts playlist, a beautiful mix of rare ‘60s psych and garage rock.
“Sorry we’re late! We finally figured out our way to Boston,” explained an excited Captain Sensible, looking particularly agile despite his rib breaking, show delaying fall a few weeks earlier. Decked out in all plaid with his classic red beret, the good captain launched into blistering guitar solos as he wiggled and lunged across the stage. “You watch your step, young man,” singer Dave Vanian jokingly growled. “No more fucking injuries!”
Indeed, each member of this veteran punk band has retained his youthful vim and vigor despite some questionably tight clothing choices. Early classics like “Love Song” and “Machine Gun Etiquette” barreled over the audience, their chaotic energy still intact 40 years after the fact, and latter day cuts like the gothic shudder of “Street of Dreams” and their brilliant cover of Love’s “Alone Again Or,” from the ‘60s psych essential Forever Changes, made a case for the versatility of The Damned catalog.
This eclectic approach manifested itself in the audience as well, as goths and punks of varying ages rubbed shoulders with Red Sox hat-wearing average Joes and everyone in between. Many were also celebrating their 40th anniversary as fans of the band. “Did anyone here see us at the Rat Club in ‘76?” inquired Captain Sensible. While the venue in question, the Rathskeller, has long been replaced by a hotel, a respectable portion of the crowd roared back and affirmed memories long since buried under the commonwealth. An exuberant version of “Smash it Up” quickly followed; on a night when Boston punks relived decades-old memories, it was a poignant reminder of history, and a spirited affirmation of the present.