The Dandy Warhols

The Dandy Warhols


For some reason, now seems the right time to catch The Dandy Warhols live. Since being a fan of theirs when they were arguably at their peak, around the turn of the century, they have always remained in my thoughts largely due to the The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Ironically, The Dandy’s commercial success was responsible for my discovery of The BJM – a band who refuse in principle to sign a record deal. The documentary of their feud entitled Dig! somewhat glamourised Anton Newcombe’s drug fuelled discordant band, and I regularly listen through their impressive back catalogue of self released work. Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s band had otherwise fallen off my radar, despite my passionate affection for them, back in the day.

The Dandy’s stroll on stage into the packed venue that’s full of fans of all ages, amongst whom most appear to have bought a t-shirt. Courtney has a presence about him – he just looks like a rockstar. If you saw him in the street and you weren’t aware of who he was, you’d still probably assume he was a rockstar. Not many men can get away with double plaited hair, but for him we can make an exception.

They start strongly with ‘Mohammed’, Zia McCabe skilfully manipulates a stack of keyboards while simultaneously shaking a tambourine or maracas, as her whole body moves in unison to the gentle rhythm. I can’t imagine her looking anything other than happy. This song is part of a trio at the beginning of their 2000 album Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, which culminates in possibly my favourite start to any album (but it’s a shame about the fourth song). ‘Get Off’, from the same album, has everyone singing along as they increase the tempo, and ‘Down Like Disco’ maintains the pace, gradually building the excitement and energy in the room.

‘I Love You’ from way back in ’97 slows things down, and is an early highlight. The strobe lights enhance the effect of the plodding, moody beat and grinding fuzzy guitar chords, which slowly gain momentum. The following instrumental is more of the same and is just as impressive. The set slows for a while, and concentration starts to wane… they go slower still through the use of a melodica and a violin bow on the guitar. Their experimental material, mainly the kitsch country music songs that contain comical sound effects, often leave me perplexed and reaching for the skip button, but thankfully there’s none of that here tonight.

‘We Used To Be Friends’ is apparently not a song about The Brian Jonestown Massacre, but by the way most fans are reacting, you’d think it was. It gains the loudest applause of the night so far, but I didn’t really think it stood out that much at all. Can’t we all just get along?

The Dandy Warhols

The Dandy Warhols

‘Solid’, again from Thirteen Tales, has the crowd singing “Ba ba ba ba…” REAL loud. They’re all pumped. From here on the this gig is really just pretty awesome. ‘Horse Pills’ follows, and then the song that anyone who’s anyone will recognise (from adverts and sporting montages, and most likely, Top Gear) ‘Bohemian Like You’. Everyone is singing “I Like You” to each other and The Ritz is united under a warm fuzzy glow. A mosh pit materialises and crowd surfers attempt in vain to make it onto the stage, which is really quite high, they’ve got no chance at all.

The bar is raised even higher with ‘Godless’, and boy do they milk it. Courtney stands in the middle of the stage facing the back wall as a laser-like guitar sound swirls around our heads… and then he plays the first chords with a certain amount of emphasis and showmanship, sending the already delirious, expectant crowd crazy. The absent trumpet part has been replaced by the audiences voices. It breaks down and Courtney faces the back of the stage again, building the tension… and then he plays those chords again. You can guess the rest.

They finish with one of my personal favourites ‘Boys Better’, and I’ve run out of superlatives. There’s no encore, but there’s an aftershow at Sound Control, apparently. Courtney tells us “Manchester is cool”, but we knew that already. The place is buzzing from what just happened – a set largely comprising major hits from 15 or more years ago, that still sound fresh and exhilarating. Courtney mentioned a new album is in the making, which I think he said will be called ‘Some Things You Gotta Deal With’. Wouldn’t it be great if they toured with The Brian Jonestown Massacre? I’d hate to be the one to decide who headlines.

Personal lives aside, The Dandy Warhol’s make fun loving, credible commercial hits and have a classic album in Thirteen Tales, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre produce consistent, experimental, influential 60’s psych rock music. Anton’s recent collaboration with Tess Parks is also well worth a listen. The personalities of each band shine through in their work and clashes in personality caused them to follow very different paths. It appears they are all doing exactly what they want to be doing, so fair play to every one of them.

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Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.