Coming to the grimey, neon-lit, streets of North London, The Damn Truth had nothing to prove but everything to prove. The last stop on their first headline tour of the UK, the Montreal quartet were riding high, the warmth they had been greeted with every step of the way confirming that the groundwork put in opening for blues rockers King King at the start of the year had been worth every mile travelled.
The Damn Truth – The Black Heart, Camden – 28 October 2022
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Phil Honley
It would have been easy to have cruised, but that’s not their way, and this sold-out show was played with the same passion and commitment that shaped the rest of this latest jaunt. The audience rammed into this intimate venue was rewarded with a feast of sight and sound.
Following a sterling, Paramoresque, set by openers Scarlet, the lights dimmed once more, and in a blaze of colour, The Damn Truth hit the stage. The machine gun riffing of the drums and guitar of This Is Who We Are Now immediately set the tone. A mission statement as much as a song, singer Lee-La Baum channels the power and soul of Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin whilst the rest of the band pour everything into their performances, the crowd singing back every word of the chorus.
In essence, this opening distilled everything that was so pitch perfect on the night, the symbiotic relationship between band and audience providing that visceral thrill that can only come from a live performance.
The roller stutter of Full On You had the audience frugging, caught up in the cool groove powered by Dave Trianna’s tight drumming, right until its solar flare of light and heat climax that shone with an intensity Led Zeppelin would have been proud of.
There was more fuel to the fire as Too Late saw Baum go from a devastating blues howl to the fully abandoned joy of its full-tilt boogie as she utterly lost herself in the music. This primal response echoed in waves around the black-painted walls of the venue, the packed crowd either intently following every moment or trying to catch the experience on mobile phones to be re-lived, second hand, later.
The wisest chose the former, and the sight and sound of PY Letellier cranking a canyon-widening groove from his bass on the biting Pirates and Politicians was to glimpse something as old as the ages. If the look of euphoria on his face was contagious, the tribal drumming of Trianna and Tom Shemer’s irresistible riff would have made the four stone lions of Trafalgar Square move.
Far from heads-down blasters, The Damn Truth are a band with style though from their eye-popping sartorial choices, Shemer’s red jeans and red, sparkling shirt particularly striking, to their sense of dynamics in songs like Lonely that went from snake-hipped to heavyweight punches.
A jubilant Only Love and a deeply soulful Look Innocent are dazzling with the transcendent passion that The Damn Truth seemingly have woven directly into their DNA. The Fire is so show-stopping it could be the climax of the set, but there’s more to come yet as the Prog Rock Psychedelia of Kinda Awkward brings together Pink Floyd and Jefferson Airplane, Baum displaying a vocal that brings fire and soul in one glorious package.
It was just down to the vibrant Get With You and a victoriously bluesy, yet street tough, blast with Tomorrow to bring their set to its shuddering and rambunctious end, the quartet dripping with sweat and wreathed in smiles.
The inevitable and much-demanded encore followed. Love Is Blindness played out its cool tendrils that hooked hearts, and the final titanic force of nature that was Heart Is Cold had the clout of Led Zeppelin-sized proportions. With Letellier playing the bass as it rested atop his head, Baum and Shemer pulling shapes and Triana bringing his own wild flair to the tumult, it was a suitably full-blooded end to the last night of their first headline tour.
In years to come, doubtless, hundreds will have claimed to have been, but for those who were truly in attendance, it was a night that will have been burnt into minds and souls for a very long time to come.
Whilst headlining shows at venues like Hammersmith Apollo and the Royal Albert Hall are distant dreams at present, it seems that such things are inevitable for the Canadian quartet. Their journey to the stars has already been well and truly lifted from the launchpad.