with 1776, The Psychic Ills
Irving Plaza, NY June 5, 2012
The Dandy Warhols are back! They may have ruled OK on their first album, but they ruled supreme live, playing a sold out concert to a packed, standing room only crowd jonesing for a fix of neo-psychedelic rock.
Two opening bands preceded the Dandys. 1776 kicked it off with their brand of hard rock sound and some touches of psychedelia and glam. The Washington-based band played a short but tight set of songs off their debut self-titled album from Beat The World Records (the Dandy Warhols' self-started label). One highlight was "I Won't Be Your Prey," a song with a music video produced by Dandy Warhols front man, Courtney Taylor-Taylor.
Equally as entertaining, and adding to the psychedelic theme of the night, were the video art interludes that played on a lowered 20-foot-wide projector screen that hid the scuffling roadies doing the tear down/setup for each band. Stop-motion images of domestic tools and commercialized products molded into human silhouettes, and pop-art poster images layered over moving traffic synced up well with the electronica music. I was mesmerized, and before I knew it the screen lifted and the next band came on stage.
Compared to 1776, the Psychic Ills performed somewhere in the outer limits with no tether to bring them back to Earth. Over-reverberated and muddied vocals from lead singer Tres Warren, amid an almost unlit stage interrupted with brief flashes of cool blue and dim window shade filters made the Ills appear completely disconnected from the audience. The trippy film noir ambiance may work for small clubs, but it didn't work well at Irving Plaza in front of almost 1,000 listeners.
Another 15-minute interlude of amazing video art played after the Psychic Ills, and so the time was just about 10 pm when the Dandy Warhols walked onstage. Looking down at the set list taped to the floor, Courtney Taylor-Taylor teased the audience, saying how they have a lot of songs to cover. And yes, the Dandys delivered on their promise, playing over 20 songs that spanned eight albums over an 18-year career, all in two hours.
Fan favorites came early and dispersed throughout the night. The opener, "Be-In," quickly led into the catchy "We Used to Be Friends," followed by "Shakin," and "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth." Though heroin may be passé, by the end of that song the Dandy Warhols' blend of psychedelic rock laced with catchy clever phrases became my new addiction.
Included in the set were songs off the Dandy's latest and most grounded album to date, This Machine. "Sad Vacation" (the first release off the album) and "The Autumn Carnival" were not only well received, they were sung along to. These Dandy fans came well prepared to soak in the new music as the smoky hue of changing blue, green, and red colors wafted over the sea of bobbing heads.
Some songs were unfortunately abridged to fit in the entire set list. "Every Day Should Be a Holiday" was just under one minute -- as terse as the clever Courtney Taylor-Taylor one-sentence movie reviews on the Dandy fan site. Fans soccer chanted happily to the one round of the "Holiday" chorus and then the song abruptly ended. I wasn't sure what was better, getting fewer but complete songs, or a shorter whirlwind medley of greatest hits. Nevertheless, fans either smoked too much "Lou Weed," or just really didn't care. What mattered was their feel-good mood and the rapport that Courtney Taylor-Taylor built with the audience that night.
Performance-wise, the Dandys clearly showed themselves as seasoned stage veterans by the ease and comfort of their playing, stage moves, and even interim dialogue with the audience. Keyboardist Zia McCabe was gracefully statuesque with one hand on the keyboards and the other shaking a tambourine. Courtney slunk into his sexy, nonchalant, pouty-lipped look while strumming his beige Fender hollow body. Drummer Brent DeBoer kept a great solid rhythm while perfectly harmonizing with Courtney's vocals. Guitarist Peter Holmström rounded out the Dandy sound with his highly compressed distortion.
The breakout hit, "Bohemian Like You," was played late into the concert and electrified the crowd as I saw from the upper deck the wave of jumping bodies on the ground floor. As the last song, "Boys Better," wound down, Courtney thanked the crowd and proclaimed, "We have been and ever shall be the Dandy Warhols." The band then left one by one until Zia was left on stage to play a very quick reprise on synth. Surprisingly to some, there was no encore. Some fans were upset, but I actually liked that the Dandys were looking to piss on convention again. What's the point of teasing an audience to come back out when you already know it's going to happen? As is, the entire show was close to four hours.
As Courtney Taylor-Taylor commented in their iconic music documentary, Dig!, "When the music is good, it's fun; when it's bad, it's just funny." Well, this night was fun because it was so good. And similar to the good reviews out there on This Machine, the Dandy Warhols prove again in both recording and live performance that they have staying power in the realm of neo-psychedelic pop rock.