20 December 2004: Dogs D’Amour – Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

The Dogs D’Amour were the seminal band of my youth, ’twas they who introduced me to the delight of Jack Daniels and coke and my parents drowned out by playing “The Dynamite Jet Saloon” at Full volume, they are my favourite band of all time. Since the last time I saw the Dogs at Derby Uni student union a lot of water has passed under the bridge, we’ve all grown older, some more disgraceful than others, so I was very and I do mean VERY!!!! excited when a tour was announced and that Rock City was one of the dates (the last Dogs gig I saw at Rock City had the Black Crows in support, that was some night.)

This tour isn’t the first tour since the Dogs split, a line up which included Tyla, Jo, Bam and Share (Mrs. Bam, formerly of Vixen) opened up for Alice Cooper on the “Monsters of Rock” Tour, and the album “Happy Ever After” featuring the same line up was released a few years ago, but the long anticipated return of the Dogs to full recording and touring in their own right never materialised, until that is now.

The latest incarnation of the Dogs is all new, only Tyla remains of the original line up, some may say that this is not the Dogs at all, but I’ve seen ’em and they most certainly are! The new album “When Bastards Go To Hell” was released earlier this year, and whilst I was I have to admit to being a bit of a doubter of the new line up I am also a Dogs nerd, I have pretty much everything they’ve ever recorded, so I had to get it for completeness. I must confess that I don’t think it is the best Dogs album but it is still good and worth shelling out for. The new line up for is Tyla- Vocals and guitar, Yella vocals and other tricks, Tom Spencer guitar (ex Yo-Yo’s, they were a good band too), Danny McCormack (ex Wildhearts and Yo-Yo’s, nice to see Danny back on stage), Mark Stanway (formerly from Magnum) and Billy Jo on drums.

Anyway that’s enough waffle lets get on with the review. Like I said the last time I saw the Dogs at Rock City it was packed upstairs with The Black Crows in support, this gig differed in two ways it was downstairs and there was no support, it was however packed. I can’t actually remember what order the tracks were played in, I was at a Dogs gig I was there to enjoy myself so if you want an accurate running order you’re out of luck. What I say is that the set was fantastic, all the classics were there “How Come It Never Rains”, “Drunk Like Me”, “Back on the Juice”, “What’s Happening Here”, Errol Flynn”, plus “Roll Over” from “Happy Ever After” and some tracks from the new album. Unfortunately Yella was unable to perform her grinding bit as Rock City wouldn’t let her so we missed that part of the show, but then the gig was so good I’m not going to moan about that.

If you’re a Dogs fan who doesn’t think the new line up is really the Dogs D’Amour I would have to disagree with you, this new line up may not be the Dogs as I knew them but they are as good as ever, maybe even in some respects better. If you never got to see them first time round or you were too young back then, now’s your chance to see one of the best bands in the world ever. The Dogs ARE back!

Cheers.

Simon

12 December 2004: The Darkness – Wembley Arena, Wembley, London, England, UK

The evening looks to be an agonising one. Wembley Arena’s full of a gormless crowd only getting mildly excited by Ash’s Tim Wheeler toting a flaming Flying V living out the title of Special Guest. There’s only one band they came to see tonight. Just when The Darkness seem to have faded out, a legion of fans erupt as The Darkness kick straight into awesome new material soaked in testosterone with roars of FREE spliced in. Prepare to fall in love again.

Growing on me goes down a storm, and is heralded an old favourite by the band – a clear sign that The Darkness are ready to unleash their next wave of pentatonic geniuses. The sloppy Reading material is a horrible memory. The classics keep on coming. They need no commentary: they’re performed to perfection. The crowd joins in, singing, dancing, clapping, it’s hardly a concert, the party atmosphere is too dominant.

Justin Hawkins sense of humour is ever present. A pink keyboard emerges and the front man begins to play Take That’s I want You Back. The audience love it. The keyboards turned on its side. Justin announces his gleeful discovery “It’s a Key-Tar!” The crowd are told to jump – they jump. Notes stream out of the amps at a satisfying blistering speed. The Key-Tar works superbly with a hair metal revamp of ‘English Country Garden” The secret to that second album may well have been revealed. Not being able to resist a chance to joke about his confrontation with a certain Irish superstar. He begins to play Band Aid; Justin Hawkins leaves the audience to sing THAT line. They’re promptly greeted with a fantastically wry “Oi! That’s my line”

The music isn’t even half of the whole experience. The budget clearly shows. Pyrotechnics light up the stage in the true, horribly arrogant fashion. Spotlights are lighting up the standing area in a multitude of colours, the people in the back row are kindly blinded by a sudden wall of white light. Towards the end of Love on the Rocks however, a blackout occurs. Next moment, the lights are back up and there sits Justin Hawkins mounted upon a giant tiger. It hovers over the audience whilst the end solo is coaxed out of his pretty in pink, sparkly Les Paul. After all, this is Justin’s show, despite the fact it’s brother Dan’s Birthday (who gets happy birthday sung to him, I hasten to add).

As the lights appear to finally dim, there’s a horrible silence. People beg in their heads for Christmas time to be played. It’s 12th December, the last gig of 2004 it’s blasphemy not to perform. Silence. Boos seep from the audience, then a Santa costume is seen. They die down as two Christmas trees light up; there is not better way the concert could have ended. It was tremendous in the warm-up gig – it’s monumental in Wembley. The Darkness sure know how to say goodbye, we’ll just have to see how good they are at their hellos in the New Year. All I know for sure is the tickets should have been printed with ‘Priceless’.

Ian Polding