Sunday, 14 December 2008

THE DANDY WARHOLS

Venue: London Astoria
Support: Fabienne Delsol
Reviewers:
Dill and Phil W.

Phil, who WERE the support band? Apart from weird French people that is…

Support was provided by French singer Fabienne Delsol who performed a mixture of both covers and original material including new single “I'm Gonna Catch Me A Rat” from her latest album “Between You And Me”. She released her first album in 2004; looking at the track listing it includes a song called “My Love Is Like A Spaceship”! Not sure if she played that one or exactly how the metaphor works but it sounds like a song I'd like to hear!

Wow, that’s almost like a direct from website puff, or you really did like them? For me though, they affected my evening, as I got side-tracked into looking at the band dynamics, and I did that for the Warhols. It really did look odd with Fabienne Delsol – one side lively, having fun, bouncing around; the other side on secondment from Toussaud’s. They could well be termed ‘cute’, or maybe ‘chic’. Archetypal French peeps whatever. Do you think it was cobbled together to support her? Whatever, I think they won me over in the end.

They certainly won ME over in the end but I was far from convinced at the start of their set. As far as band dynamics go, its not too unusual for one performer to look upbeat and lively on stage while another looks like they’re waiting in line at the bank but it was noticeable here; the more the guitarist on Fabienne Delsol's right looked sullen and detached, the more the guitarist on her left seemed to be enjoying himself. But I doubt there was necessarily any pre-conceived plan behind this. Musically the band were certainly stuck in another time - somewhere around 1969 - from sound to dress sense. I'm never sure how I feel about that kind of thing, so purposefully imitating another time, but it worked for them and cute is definitely a good description of the final product both in looks and sound. Actually what stuck with me most after their set was their use of stage lights, which had them permanently bathed in simple, motionless blue and purple lights that shone down from directly above them through a permanent haze of dry ice. It rendered the late sixties vibe complete so that for a moment you could lose yourself in their own indulgence.

The lighting was possibly more to do with what was to come. I guess you’ll agree THAT was fairly elaborate…

Yeah, the Dandy's had themselves backed with banks of multicoloured strip lights; impressive but simple enough not to detract from the band themselves. Complemented with the house lights and the occasional burst of strobe, they drew us into a world of psychedelic starfields and bursting supernovas.

Hummm, maybe you saw a Black Hole as well. I just got occasionally blinded, but I don’t have your design experience to notice much else. I suppose part of the lighting was to somehow keep them in the dark. I don’t think I ever got a full-on, fully-lit sighting of Courtney Taylor, or (licks lips) Zia in the whole proceedings. Even Pete was a little obscure from 5 feet away, but then I suppose that’s his style, surly arse! It did allow Brent to get a sneaky, cheeky sniffsnort of something, however (allegedly). Age, I reckon. It’s hard to grasp the fact that they’ve been making their slightly kooky music for the last 15 years. Even though they were promoting a new album “…Earth to The Dandy Warhols…”, it wasn’t all new songs. You’d almost think they had an impressive back catalogue….

You would, except that over the last 15 years the band has quietly accumulated a VERY impressive back catalogue! I've been a proud fan of The Dandy Warhols since I first discovered them a little late on with their third album “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia”. Psychedelic shoegazing, grunge infested power pop and unlikely alt.country.... with horns! I'm there!! The same week I bought the record, I went back to the store and bought the first two albums, both of which have outstanding moments (“Minnesota” for example), but “Thirteen Tales” has remained my favourite listen. The three song sequence that opens the album has to be one of my all time favourite album openings; sometimes I've just stopped the album after the first three songs and gone back to the start! I saw them live that same year and they were stunning, the lengthy moments of psychedelic jamming making the biggest impression on me. I never really got “Welcome To The Monkey House” but “Odditorium” for me felt like a return to form. I've ordered “Earth To Dandy Warhols” from Amazon, so we'll see if it makes it through the post before Christmas!

Whereas I really dug “Welcome to the Monkey House”, along with the rest. I think it’s because they’re musical minah birds, mimicking styles that they dig. And with “Monkey House”, they dug the 80s, Duran Duran, Simple Minds etc…. Dude, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion if they’d just come on, played their new album to us, and cleared off. Instead they gave us a real treat. How many songs was it?

I think it was probably around 28 or 29 songs in the end. At some point toward the end of the set Zia complained to Courtney they had already played 26 songs, add in the unexpected (but hoped for! – Dill) performance of “The Dandy Warhols' T.V. Theme Song” and the closer “Country Leaver” and the fact you noted on the sound desk 27 songs’ cues and it must be around that number. I'm not even sure if they played an encore, at some point the whole band did leave the stage but for Courtney who treated us to a solo version of “Every Day Should Be a Holiday”. I wondered at the time if that was actually the end of the main set but the rest of the band just couldn't get Courtney off stage! After more than two hours, Courtney had to be practically forced off stage by his band members and the house lights. It was certainly value for money and I couldn't think of many songs I would have liked to hear and didn't! Over two hours they really did plunder material from all six albums including the first song from their first album, the aforementioned “The Dandy Warhols' T.V. Theme Song”, which Zia claimed they hadn't played in fifteen years!'

All but one song of the set was original content – and even “Little Drummer Boy” they had covered way back when. Yes, I remember that they couldn’t drag him off at the end. It was too late for an encore, but what could they have done? By that time, my bladder had pushed me away from front stage, and towards the ‘comfort areas’. The crowd was so dense, there was no way back!! Which brings me back to band dynamics. At front stage (off to the side), the band did seem a bit dysfunctional to me – three separate islands of activity. Zia on her own, Pete on his depressed own, Courtney and Brent having a laugh in the middle. But when I saw them from the back, it was completely different, and they were, actually, so together. And loving it. And loving us. The crowd were bouncing all the way to the back door, and I felt somehow…. ‘Christmas-ey’. Which brings me to this…. If the whole point of a review is to make someone want to see them, wouldn’t it have been far easier just to say ‘They’re brilliant, not to be missed, go see them, now’?

I guess it would be! I mean, they were brilliant, they really shouldn't be missed, and everyone should go see them now! Except the circus has already left town, and looking at their tour schedule, the band should be back in Portland by now to celebrate Christmas with their families. So most of you have missed the show, but what a show it was! More than two hours of sonic marvelling; Zia enthusiastically shaking her tambourine with one hand while working out a bass line on her keyboards with the other, Pete lost in his own world of intergalactic guitar textures and kicking away at a myriad of multicoloured effects pedals. Brent slamming on his drums while Courtney took centre stage, hemmed inside a circle of monitors that had the effect of mounting him on a metaphorical podium. And all the hits just started rolling out: “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth”, “Bohemian Like You”, “We Used To Be Friends”, “Good Morning”, “Godless”, “Boy's Better”, “Minnesota”, of course all of these were released over half a decade ago! Not to say the band haven't released some great music since then, but for now their chart topping days are definitely over and it’s quite possible the band are happy to keep it that way. Famously uncomfortable with their success at the time, and actually, as anyone who's seen “DiG!” can attest, the Dandy Warhols never were the band to save rock n roll. More than a decade after “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth”, the Dandy's are playing epic two hour shows in modest venues; they are the rock n roll legends of their own particular corner of the world, knowing full well even their fans find themselves scratching their heads in confusion the first time they spin any of their recent releases. In the end, you've just gotta feel the vibe man, you've just gotta get into the groove, you've just gotta dig! And if history is anything to go by, The Dandy Warhols will be back next year and everyone should go and see them! Well, you know, if you dig!

……A sort of ‘Yes!’, then, except for the ‘Now!’…

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Good review. Great evening. Incredible band.