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The Damned
Tiger Lillies
The Ghost Of Lemora

Bizarre Ball @ Scala, London
Saturday November 20 2010

 

Not quite a normal gig, this. It's the Bizarre Ball, a fetish-lite shindig put on by Bizarre Magazine, Britain's alternative lads' mag. I dare say that's not quite the way Bizarre sees itself, but given that a typical issue is fully loaded (ha!) with hawt chyx in skimpy costumes, and is presented in a hyped-up super-tabloid style, the description kind of makes itself.

Curiously, the issue of the magazine that coincides with the Bizarre Ball features hawt chyk celeb tattooist Kat Von D as the cover star, rather than the usual all-purpose babe, and thus looks rather more alternative than is typical...at the cost of looking like every tattoo magazine out there. Still, you do what you gotta do to shift the product, right? And at least we get a gig out of it.

After an endearingly un-slick introduction by Bizarre's Alix Fox, who gives the band a big build-up while they're still carrying their kit onto the stage, The Ghost Of Lemora - "The band you've never heard of," as they introduce themselves - kick off their amiable clatter. And indeed the Ghosts probably are an unknown quantity to tonight's crowd. Although they've been around for a decade now, they've never really set foot outside the UK goth scene, which is a fine way to remain invisible as far as the world at large is concerned.

The band seem to be having a top time, though, rattling through their good-time spook-pop, vocalist Twinkle - he calls himself Richard nowadays, but he'll always be Twinkle to me - giving it the full anguished melodrama thing. "Long live Bizarre Magazine," proclaims guitarist Swifty as the set rumbles to a close. "Long live the Damned, long live the Tiger Lillies. And long live us, hopefully". Well, The Ghost Of Lemora have clocked up ten years already. Longevity doesn't look like it's a problem. But ten years is a long time to spend below the parapet.

Tiger Lillies / The Ghost Of Lemora

It's a stripped-down, rock gig-friendly Tiger Lillies tonight. The more outrĂ© theatrical elements of the band's show have been chopped out, and there's a distinct absence of slow songs and sad songs. Instead, the Lillies play it as fast and punkzoid as it's possible for a band that features a miniature drum kit, a musical saw, an accordion and Martin Jaques' fingernails-down-a-blackboard falsetto vocal to get.

They shriek gleefully through 'Banging In The Nails', with drummer Adrian Huge doing a Keith Moon on his drums with toy hammers in the middle of the song - and then continuing to play, scrabbling around the floor to reach the scattered bits of his kit. Now that's a refinement old Moonie never mastered. But it's the hi-freak rampage through 'Lobotomy' that really sets the crowd rocking. Martin Jaques, three inches of theatrical panstick on his face, screams and steams and roars like a vaudeville edition of Charlie Harper. The Rebellion Festival booking is surely only a matter of time.

The DamnedThe Damned give us the greatest hits. Well, I suppose that's inevitable: this isn't a bespoke crowd of Damned fans, and I dare say few people here tonight know many Damned songs beyond the smasheroonies of yesteryear. But, all the same, you'd think The Damned would throw in a little something from their new album, So, Who's Paranoid?  As it is, there's nary a song and not even a mention of the band's latest ouevre. 'Thrill Kill', from the last-but-one album Grave Disorder, is as recent as this set gets. Aside from that it's old school all the way.

Dave Vanian, togged up like an Edwardian gentleman in search of naughtiness, bestrides the stage, an island of incongruous elegance amid his colleagues' ram-raid-the-dressing-up-box costumes. Pinch clowns in full slap behind the drumkit. Bassist Stu West shows remarkable stamina in a full-face PVC outfit. "It's Paul Gray on bass," asserts Captain Sensible, but it probably isn't, any more than it's Turner Prize-winning transvestite potter Grayson Perry on guitar. Sensible's just copped the look.

It says much for the quality of The Damned's songs, and the almost offhand confidence with which they're delivered, that the band's loony costumery doesn't become the dominant element of the show. Insousciantly animated - because they know they've got this stuff nailed - The Damned swing into the set with the nonchalant verve of a street urchin jumping on a moving Routemaster. 'Ignite' is a psychedelic epic. 'Eloise' is the entire Hammer Studios output distilled into one song. 'Love Song' thunders mightily, a bass-heavy monster, with Sensible taking the vocal after realising that Vanian isn't actually on stage at the crucial moment. Even the impromptu absence of the lead singer can't stop The Damned.

Sensible threatens to sing his solo hit, 'Happy Talk', to cover a technical breakdown, but the problem is fixed just in time: we get 'Doctor Jekyll And Mister Hyde' instead, one of The Damned's three-minute horror movie soundtracks. But, of course, it's 'New Rose' - as fast and furious as it's ever been - that really makes the mosh kick off.

So, the Bizarre Ballers get just what they want: The Damned rolling out hit after boisterous hit. The set ends to a storm of triumphant cheers - and yes, that was a good one. The absence of new songs probably wasn't even noticed by anyone in the house tonight. But even The Damned's boisterous hits were unfamiliar new songs once. How are the band going to have any hits tomorrow if they don't play the new songs today?

The Damned:
Website | MySpace | Facebook

Tiger Lillies:
Website | MySpace | Facebook

The Ghost Of Lemora:
Website | MySpace | Facebook

Bizarre Magazine:
Website | MySpace | Facebook

For more photos from this gig,
find the bands by name here.

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