The Damned at The Croxton, Melbourne, Saturday August 24, 2019.

There’s nothing better than being able to tell which band is playing inside a venue based on their fans queueing outside, and tonight the OG goths are out in full force, slapping on the makeup and clobber that The Damned inspired back in their heyday.

There’s a faint smell of mothballs inside The Croxton as well, as if many in the house have delved deep into their wardrobes to retrieve jackets they last sported when The Damned toured our shores a couple of years back.

Lemmy from Motörhead (RIP) labelled The Damned “The only real punk band,” and devotees are packed in tight, fiercely guarding their posis as close to the stage as possible and preventing late opportunists from barging in. A cheer goes up as the band take their positions on stage.

Captain Sensible, wearing trademark red beret, announces: “We’re The Damned, not the f-cking Sex Pistols!” before they launch into Love Song, a raucous number featuring screaming guitars and punchy drums that comes in at just under two-and-a-half minutes (as many of their songs do). The Damned go on to play their third album, Machine Gun Etiquette, in tracklisted order (but skip track ten: Liar), plus more.

It’s a whole lotta fun thanks to between-song banter that often relates to the track following, such as Captain Sensible telling us he reads the papers and noticed we’ve had some trouble with “pedo” cardinals, which leads into Anti-Pope. Dave Vanian looks like a dapper vampire – complete with black gloves and black cravat with white polka dots – until he puts on a red clown’s nose to perform These Hands: “These are the hands of a demented circus clown…” His deranged “ha ha ha” laughing parts during this song will surely give coulrophobes nightmares! (We’re not sure that just being “an old, old man” gives Vanian permission to use the word ‘poof’ when referring to Morrissey, however.)

Smash It Up, Pt. 1 & 2 makes the crowd rowdy and things get a bit shovey down the front. Drummer Paul Gray is an absolute beast behind his kit. It’s super-fun to sing along with, but Eloise is presented as a thrashier version than we remember this evening. When Captain Sensible holds his mic out into the crowd, encouraging our heckles, one punter yells out a request for Happy Talk (his version of the show tune from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical South Pacific, that became a surprise UK #1) and he tells us that definitely ain’t happening. We do score Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, however. Our “woah-oh” audience participation during Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow sounds awesome, as Captain Sensible points his mic out into the crowd to amplify our contributions.

The Damned aptly perform Curtain Call as their first encore song and then close with a pair of covers: the band’s version of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit and Elton Motello’s Jet Boy, Jet Girl (which Captain Sensible & The Softies put out as a single).

A top night out. It’s safe to say those who forked out for babysitters certainly got their money’s worth.