London Shepherds Bush Empire

Friends in high places and an impressive new album cement the one-off live show...

Having had Damage knocking around the scene for almost ten years now, with their new album ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ there’s a sense that Damage have finally come into their own – and tonight’s show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire serves to cement their comeback. Not only this, but it serves as a thank-you gesture – typical of Damage – to all those loyal fans who have stuck by the band since day one.

Obviously, Damage have a lot of friends in a lot of cool places, and their elevated presence gives this usually dingy auditorium in west London an even greater intimacy than usual. In fact, over half the guest-list reads like a rather impressive R&B roll call.

But that’s hardly any surprise. What [I]is[/I] surprising about tonight is the absence of any old material – proof, if proof were needed, that Damage are seeking more than ever to break into new musical territories. And apart from a couple of formulaic R&B numbers, including the rather disappointing ‘Rumours’, the majority of tracks performed are fuelled by some sweet, old-skool funk with a touch of rhythmic soul – a sound carried, if not defined, by Coree‘s earthy, sometimes James Brown-esque vocals.

Couple Damage with a live band and this mid-week gig has, momentarily, a touch of something greater. As it stands, though, it’s merely a tantalising glimpse, as the night rather abruptly ends at the play-safe time of half ten. Hardly the kind of time gigs end in Damage‘s romantic ghetto (see ‘Ghetto Romance’, one of tonight’s most well-received songs), surely? Anyway, from tonight’s performance, it’s clear to see Damage are thinking bigger than their poppy pigeonhole.

Straddling the world of ‘serious’ music and mainstream R&B boy-band pop, they’ve just got to decide which way to jump.

Sarah Marshall