The Story of 1,000 Vampires
by Frances Brennan
The Damned's Night of 1,000 Vampires at The London Palladium was a groundbreaking show for a band with their position in history, catering to their most devoted fans, crystallizing and amplifying the audience image of the band and bringing their performance to a fresh, current level. The show modernized their brand and inspired new critical respect for their musicianship and creativity, coinciding with the release of an anthology highlighting 40 years of their recording career.
The band announced the immersive theatrical show back in June, along with details about the upcoming new anthology Black is the Night, just days before their performance at Britain's Glastonbury Festival headlined by The Cure, The Killers and Stormzy. The Damned would open for The Misfits at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 19, in a highly publicized show that singer Glen Danzig announced would be his last Misfits show.
The Damned's previous release and 11th Studio album, Evil Spirits, had been their first in ten years, produced by the legendary David Bowie producer, Tony Visconti. It was primarily funded with a Pledge Music campaign. Some have lauded it as a release that defies time, others have called it an attempt to make The Damned what their fans want it to be.
The "The Night of 1,000 Vampires," on Oct 28, 2019 at the London Palladium was promised to "shock, awe and amaze." The legendary first wave punks were collaborating with The Hammer House of Horror, producers of 1958's Dracula starring Christoper Lee and its sequels, and credited with creating a golden age of British cinema, to stage "a special immersive theatrical experience," for the evening, including appearances by The Circus of Horrors,
a British contemporary circus, first seen performing at the 1995 Glastonbury Fest, that combines horror, black comedy and rock and roll with circus acts, incorporating goth and steampunk imagery and referencing Victorian freak shows and burlesque. They would open the show and make cameo appearances throughout The Damned's performance.
According to pre-show publicity, the Palladium show was intended to set a Guiness record for the world's largest gathering of "vampires" (1,040) with the band calling for all attending to wear fancy dress for the occasion. Hammer House of Horror offered a special prize for the best dressed fan.
Tickets went on sale on the date of the announcement, and quickly sold out, with more than 2,000 Damned fans scheduled to attend.
Black Is The Night, the new career anthology released by the band on Nov 1 on BMG, is a four LP/two CD set, curated by the band, covering releases from their 1979 single "Love Song" from Machine Gun Etiquette through Evil Spirits. The Damned wrote a new song of the same title, "Black Is The Night" for the album. Its release coincided with the 40th anniversary of 1979s, Machine Gun Etiquette on November 2nd. Captain Sensible called the anthology "the definitive collection" of the band's music.
The Damned were the first punk band to make the charts with their single "New Rose" in October 1976. They were also the first UK punk band to tour America and the first to play CBGBs in New York. Their first album, Damned, Damned, Damned came out in February 1977.
The Damned "New Rose" Official Video
Vanian and Sensible are the only original members remaining from the founding quartet with Brian James on guitar and Rat Scabies on drums. Sensible originally played bass, but has since moved to guitar. The band has evolved from their roots punk start to goth superstars. Their show has involved elements of horror theater for most of their career. Dave Vanian has always played a vampire on stage in movement, manner and attire. The Night of 1,000 vampires brought this image to life, with full costume, theatrical make up and a stage show.
Fans surrounded the Palldium in London before the show. Inside, the stage set entrace to Dracula's tomb placed with Damned drummer, Pinch, at the top of a sweeping staircase on its side for what was announced to be his last show with the band after 20 years. Hammer House movie clips were shown from the screen behind the castle. Vanian, dressed as nosferatu, took his vampire stage character to its ultimate portrayal, in full costume with a castle and a coffin, and classic Dracula clips playing behind him. The London Palladium was a sea of black.
The Damned's performance was incredible. Their performance, with all the theater arround them, was clearly the star of the show. It was musicallly one of the best and hottest shows in their career. Even Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page was there, along with the rest of England's biggest Damned fans.
The night left Damned followers in England and worlwide overjoyed. Their ecstasy and videos, including covers of Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" and The Doors', "People Are Strange," flooded social media the day after the show.
The Damned are scheduled to play the Tomorrow's Ghosts festival in Whitby England in April 2020 with Pink Turns Blue, The Membranes, SRSQ, The Rose Of Avalanche and more.