One particularly exciting aspect of my 2022 gigging life has been rediscovering the live experience of several bands I’d not seen for well over a decade. By June, I’d already seen Kosheen (first gig since 2003) and Placebo (first since 2004) in March, and I had the Prodigy to look forward to in July, who I last saw in 2005. But on this midsummer evening it was time to rediscover a band who I saw seven times in 2003 and then not at all since: the Dandy Warhols.
I will admit to not having followed the Dandys obsessively over the years. As with many of my favourite bands, the period I was most interested in them coincided with my musical youth in the late 90s and early 2000s. However, two things made me keen to revisit the Dandy’s live experience in the 2020s. The first was that this gig was originally announced during the latter months of 2020, when it seemed that early 2021 might hold some semblance of normalcy for the live music fan, and I was keen to snap up any ticket for a gig by a band I liked. As we know, this turned out not to be true, and the original March 2021 date was postponed first to February 2022, and then to this June date when it could finally go ahead. My last gig, the Pet Shop Boys at the O2, provided the milestone of being my last gig booked in pre-COVID times, and this Dandy Warhols gig was my last gig that had experienced any COVID delays at all. From here on in, as far as my gigging life is concerned, it was finally as though COVID never happened.
The second reason is that the Dandy Warhols hold a special place in my gigging hall of fame, as they were the support band for the five David Bowie gigs I went to on his A Reality tour in November 2003. Their sparkling opening sets are an integral and vivid part of my memories of that most remarkable era of my music fan life, making me keen to experience their weird and wonderful world once again.
However, I found myself not in the greatest mood as I set off for this gig. I was three weeks into a new job and the stress was taking its toll, with some chronic health issues flaring up. This, combined with the mugginess of the summer evening, made me feel for a few moments as though I might pass out whilst on the Northern Line up to Chalk Farm.
But I made it to the Roundhouse, and as I found a spot in the crowd to listen to the support band New Candys, I gradually started to feel more human. I must admit I was very grateful to have my earplugs with me, as they were unfathomably loud, with the bass especially brain-piercing. Once I had adjusted to the decibels I enjoyed their moodily competent set of indie tunes that could have come straight out of ’97, which, if you’re me, is a damn good thing.
The Dandy Warhols came on at 9pm and it was very soon apparent that they could quite well have come straight out of ’03, so unchanged were they from the last time I saw them in that year, even so far as beginning with the same tune, “Be In”, with its druggy, shoegazey, mesmerising harmonies. Musically and vocally they were on incredible form, and just as I noted back during those gigs of 2003, for a band who present themselves with such a hazy, spaced-out persona, they are incredibly tight.
Sadly, I still was not in the most gigtastic of spirits, and it took until “We Used To Be Friends”, five songs in, for the show to really take off for me. I decided I wasn’t in the mood to be in the thick of the throng and roamed round to the back of the crowd to get some breathing space, and was able to watch the gig in comfort from there. Their set was a perfect mix of immense guitar barrages and spacey melodies with the occasional glam stomper thrown in. I was particularly thrilled to hear “The Last High”, one of my favourite songs from my season of Dandys gigs of 2003, and I scooted back into the crowd a little bit to revel in its aliened new-wave vibe. The gig peaked in a duo of killer singles: first “Bohemian Like You” which was inevitably huge, that cathartic “Wa hoah WOO!” raising the roof as always, and prompting a sea of phones in the air to record it – appropriately, I guess, given it rose to fame in a Vodaphone ad. And then “Gett Off” was a bouncy, dirty singalong.
The band members themselves seemed to be in fine sprits, with Zia commenting on the crowd’s rowdiness and enthusiasm, and telling security to back off and let people mosh in peace. Courtney praised us for successfully navigating the ‘new trains system’ – an arch reference to the first of the many train strikes of 2022 that were occurring that day – and also bemoaned the fact that a tune as catchy as “The Last High” was never a hit, encouraging us to request it on the radio. There was a general vibe of chilled out warmth and camaraderie between the band and the crowd.
I may not have felt in the best shape on this stifling summer Saturday evening, but this gig lifted me out of my funk and revived me like the blast of cool air I needed. I look forward to the next time I can dance on planet Dandy again.
Categories: 2022 Gig Reports, Latest gigs
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