The audience for the Damned concert at the Bayou Sunday brought a lot of energy and expectations, because this band, along with the Sex Pistols, was one of the first to touch off the British punk explosion a few years ago. What the Damned offered was a fairly ritualistic version of what the punk style originally meant.
The band delivered the punk requisites - bogus violence and nihilism; obscenities and crowd abuse; spitting; a manic stage performance; and high-volume, jackhammer rhythms. There was even a nude scene.
Lead singer David Vanian is in some ways the band's weakest link. His horror-show theratricality and Dracula image are simply too calculated for punk's raw spirit and unorthodox esthetics.
At the end of "God Save the Queen," Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols defined punk at its best when he sneered: "We mean it, man." The Damned have never seemed to mean it and that's the major reason their credibility has steadily sunk from their initial impact in England. However, by the time they got to their best songs, like "Neat, Neat, Neat,' they had the crowd pogoing, spitting back and enjoying their reckless buffoonery.
The Damned seemed to have fun, the crowd surely did, and that's half of what rock is about.