Live: The Damn Truth

The Waterfront, Norwich October 18, 2022

by Adam Aiken

Not for the first time in these parts, it’s a disappointing turnout for what should be one of the hottest rock ‘n’ roll shows of the year in Norfolk.

It’s The Damn Truth’s first headline show on their current visit to the UK, but it’s not as if they have been flying under the radar – darlings of Planet Rock and winning plaudits for their recent support slots with King King, this is the kind of gig that should be packed to the rafters.

Chemistry: Tom Shemer and Lee-la Baum (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
Chemistry: Tom Shemer and Lee-la Baum (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

To be fair, there are a couple of other draws in the city tonight – Wishbone Ash (the lot without Martin Turner) are playing down the road and, even nearer The Waterfront, Norwich City are in action against Luton.

But from the moment The Damn Truth arrive on stage as White Rabbit, the entrance music, reaches its thrilling climax, there’s no indication of any disappointment on their part, and they play (and talk to us) throughout the evening as though it’s the biggest show of their lives.

PY Letellier on bass (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
PY Letellier on bass (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

They open with booming anthem This Is Who We Are Now. That’s also the first song on Now Or Nowhere, their latest album and also their strongest to date, as evidenced by songs such as Full On You, Look Innocent and the brilliant Only Love, which are also in the set.

The mesmerising Lee-la Baum is on fire. She wrings emotion out of every note and doesn’t let up for a moment.

Guitarist Tom Shemer, PY Letellier on bass and drummer Dave Traina are no less passionate, and the whole band play as if their lives depend on it.

It's a mesmerising performance (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
It’s a mesmerising performance (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

While the set is held together by a degree of uniformity, there’s plenty of variation in there – the upbeat bounce of Pirates & Politicians contrasting nicely with the doom-ish, chugging Broken Blues, for example.

Their influences are clear and there’s an obvious throwback to the trailblazers of the 1960s, but describing The Damn Truth simply as a retro act does them a disservice.

From left: Tom Shemer, Dave Traina, Lee-la Baum and PY Letellier (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
From left: Tom Shemer, Dave Traina, Lee-la Baum and PY Letellier (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

They are much fresher than that and there can be few more exciting rock ’n’ roll acts on the circuit right now.

When a band is on top form and displaying such chemistry, the set invariably whizzes by, and so it is tonight.

We get to Tomorrow, complete with lush harmonies from Shemer and Letellier, way too soon, although there’s time for an encore of Heart Is Cold and a cover of Love Is Blindness.

There's passion throughout from The Damn Truth (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
There’s passion throughout from The Damn Truth (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

But that’s not the end of tonight’s proceedings. Once again hiding any disappointment they might feel at the less-than-optimal crowd size, they cheerily throw themselves into the after-show meet-and-greet – just as an over-enthusiastic dry-ice machine triggers the fire alarm.

Those who’ve yet to say hi to the band and grab a couple of autographs trudge off, a bit pissed off at the sudden end to the evening.

Lee-la Baum oozes emotion (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
Lee-la Baum oozes emotion (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

But there’s no need to worry. As everyone troops down the stairs, the band’s merch guy springs into action and lugs all their promo stuff with him, giving him the chance to flog some more gear while those still here get the chance to pose for pictures and share war stories with the band outside.

If there’s a friendlier act around at the moment, it’d be good to know who they are.

The Damn Truth are on top form (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
The Damn Truth are on top form (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

The whole thing makes for a night to remember – partly for its quirkiness but mainly for a wonderful set from a band who are going places.

And given that those who’d chosen to go to the football down the road ended up, by all accounts, watching a complete heap of shit, it would be nice to think that a few more folk will be here next time such a cracking band ventures to these parts.

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