The Damn Truth – Canada’s finest export since Dudley Do-Right – made good on their promise to come back real soon after knocking UK audiences for six during their support slot earlier this year with Scottish blues-rockers King King. A whistle-stop 11-date October tour around the regions that included a mixture of appearances at Planet Rock’s multi-date ‘Rocktober’ event, a few more support slots with Alan Nimmo and the boys in King King, and more importantly: several headlining appearances where the band got the chance to spread their wings and free themselves from the restraints of a 30-minute opening slot. And tonight in Glasgow, they put on a 90-minute masterclass on how to grab hold of an audience and transport them to another plain, and make such a strong impact that people will be talking about the gig for some time afterward.
Opening the evening – and each headline show from The Damn Truth – are North West of England-based quartet Scarlet. Playing a lively brand of alt-rock-meets-grunge-meets-power-pop, the outfit led by Jessie Robinson on vocals and rhythm guitar grabs their chance to impress and runs with it. Described by Jessie as their “most danceable track” ‘Bring Me Down’ certainly is that, and thanks to the jangly-guitar intro it does spark a recollection or two of the Buzzcocks nugget ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?)’. There is a fantastic happy-go-lucky US West Coast vibe from Jessie, who at times comes across as Susanna Hoffs with a St Helens accent, and it is very easy to warm to the band – especially when they casually drop the grungey new single ‘In And Out’ into the set. Further investigation is mandatory.
With the sounds of Jefferson Airplane’s iconic ‘White Rabbit’ (from 1967 no less) filling the room, The Damn Truth are led from the small dressing room (more like a cupboard really) at the side of the stage and onstage by the impossible-to-take-your-eyes-from human whirlwind known as TDT frontwoman Lee-la Baum. The smell of incense is overpowering and with Lee-la acting as cheerleader during the intro, the audience are transported down the rabbit hole back to San Francisco at the start of the flower-power movement and asked at full volume to “Feed Your Head”. As intros go, this is pretty damn special, the gradual build to a euphoric conclusion is mindblowing, and considering that the original track doesn’t even bother the three-minute mark, it packs a powerful punch. Given that The Damn Truth are self-confessed hippies, it really is the perfect intro.
Once the last commands to “Feed Your Head” fade out, the four-piece – Lee-La Baum (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Shemer (guitar), PY Letellier (bass), and Dave Traina (drums) – crash into opening track, and one of the best “statement” songs of the last few years – ‘This Is Who We Are Now’. One of their heavier tracks, it showcases the confidence within the band, as well as the bags of charisma that the front line of Baum, Shemer, and Letellier bring to the party. Shemer’s light, hypnotic riffage signals the intro to another track from the latest album ‘Now or Nowhere’ – ‘Full On You’ and it’s heartwarming to see so many in the audience singing along…and getting down once Shemer breaks into one of many dazzling solos featured throughout the set.
Lee-la is incredible to watch. Shaking her hair back and forth, shimmying in time to the music, losing herself in the performance, making eye contact with everyone in the crowd – it truly is spellbinding. And that voice: the “new Janis Joplin”? Nah mate, more like the first Lee-la Baum. With heaps of restraint (a scarce commodity these days), you always get the feeling with Lee-la that she could go up a notch or two if needed and has plenty left over in the tank. Dipping back to the debut album ‘Dear In The Headlights’ for a blast of ‘Too Late’ and the sophomore effort ‘Devilish Folk’ for the timely ‘Pirates & Politicians’, The Damn Truth are making sure that everyone converted to the family by the King King tour are aware of pre-‘Now or Nowhere’ TDT. But it is the latest (and greatest) album that makes up the lion’s share of the set; whether it’s the smouldering, pelvis-grinding ‘Lonely’ which comes with some hair-raising vocals from Lee-la; the huge joyous celebration of life known as ‘Only Love’ (cue a mass singalong from the crowd); Tom going walkabout through the crowd during a lengthy version of new single ‘Look Innocent’; or Tom’s wonderful singing-riff intro to the roof-raising ‘Tomorrow’ – this was further proof of the potency of the album, and if you need further convincing, then maybe the fact that the band sold out of CD copies at the merch desk will convince you.
Encore time brought the Zeppelin-like howl of ‘Heart Is Cold’ and a show-stopping live version of their cover of U2’s ‘Love Is Blindness’, which thanks to a simple black and white performance video back in 2017 was for many UK fans their first taste of The Damn Truth. Recorded for an ad campaign for Yves Saint Laurent’s Mon Paris perfume, and thanks to a mesmerising performance from Lee-la, and a killer guitar solo from Tom, this is one of those rarities – a cover that puts the original firmly in the shade…and in the live setting of a sweaty club in Glasgow on a Wednesday night, there is no other place I’d rather be.
When The Damn Truth comes back, and they will come back, then miss them at your peril. Refreshingly hype-free, this is all about doing it the old-fashioned way: building a movement from the ground up and ensuring that everyone that leaves your show goes home and tells ten other people about how special it was, then they come along, and repeat the cycle until they run out of people to tell that The Damn Truth are the real deal.
Review – Dave
Photo credits – Dave Jamieson
Connect with The Damn Truth here