Monday, 30 May 2016

Dandy Warhols (Limelight 2, May 27th 2016)

The Dandy Warhols, in their own inimitably casual way, left the Limelight revellers delighted by a triumphant Belfast show which was their debut in Northern Ireland - an incredible fact given their long and rich recording history.

The sun-soaked capital was the perfect setting for a night of hazy guitar heroics, kicked off suitably by a short set by London-based Happyness. Like many support acts, they fitted neatly into the main act's musical bubble, displaying a pronounced Pavement influence, which in this writer's mind can only be a good thing. Happyness have been touring buddies of The Dandy Warhols for a while now, and their potential is undeniable for some big headline sets of their own.

'Be-In' began the Warhols' set, laying out the stall for what was to come. Mid-tempo, blissed out, atmospheric and, most importantly of all, melodic. 'Crack Cocaine Rager', one of their many drug-inspired ditties, struts forth with aplomb, and 'Get Off' harks back to their chart-bothering days and feels oddly out of place as it skips breezily along.

'STYGGO' is an earworm from the new album that bathes the venue in a bit of tropical light even as the outside sun starts to fade. It has one of those wordless hooks that the Dandys do so well.

One of the set highlights comes from a somewhat unlikely source. On record (Distortland), 'Search Party' is fine and dandy (Sorry...) without really packing much of a punch. Here at the Limelight, it becomes a mammoth. Thundering bass, which as it turns out comes from the wonderfully talented Zia McCabe's extensive keyboard setup, married to an array of guitar effects and a galloping rhythm bring the song to new groovy life.

Zia departs for a couple of songs, leaving Courtney Taylor-Taylor to do a bit of solo strumming, but that only gives the audience to show off their chops with a bit of audience participation. No, not on keyboards, but with some loving singalongs of 'Everyday Should Be A Holiday' and 'Welcome To The Monkey House.' Courtney is suitably impressed, leading him to proclaim that the Irish do indeed "sing like bitches." As if there was any doubt.

With the band up to its full compliment, it is hits abound as 'Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth' receives a rapturous response. 'Bohemian Like You', perhaps inevitably, also receives one of the largest ovations of the night - the band's only UK top five hit thanks to a certain mobile phone ad, back when the main function of a phone was phone-calls!

Punctuating the night from time to time are numerous spacey psychedelic interludes, be that in the form of jamming or what resembles an attempt to contact extra-terrestrial beings through Courtney's microphone. The latter of those broke up the time between the main set and a wonderful rendition of one of their earliest hits and best-loved songs, Boys Better - a song that was getting loud requests from mid-set. Worth the wait undoubtedly, it was a perfect closer to an incredibly accomplished set.

Putting a full stop on the night, Zia came out to show off her DJ skills with a brief electronic flourish to send the punters on their way. We can expect to see The Dandy Warhols back in Belfast at the Ulster Hall next year should they keep their promises, and I imagine 90% of those present this time will be back for much more.

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