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Live in Chicago

The Empty Bottle, Chicago
Nov. 12, 1999
Review by Joe Bonomo
Photos by Peter Wolak

As I stood in line to receive my American Citizenship papers, I never felt prouder in my life.... Wait a minute, I mean The Dictators show at Empty Bottle in Chicago. Well, I feel like a proud American whenever I see these guys. The sold-out show was great, from beginning to end! These guys are tight and polished, but they never sacrifice rock & roll for "show." I hadn't seen them since '91, and they rocked as hard--and a funny--as ever. My tolerance for "funny" in rock & roll is never too high, but the tongue-in-cheek Dictators humor is great because they don't take themselves too seriously.

HDM and Ross

Handsome Dick was in fine form all night--raving about the World Series, naturally, and Chicago traffic--and it was cool to see how well these guys, after all these years, manage to balance the different tastes/desires in the band so well, something that The Ramones were never really able to do. On one hand there's Ross the Boss who looks like he could be playing with Ozzy, and then there's Top Ten who looks like he could be playing with Horton Heat or Joe Ely or something. Very cool. (And this was reflected in the crowd, too, which ranged from metal fans to roots fans, with all ages distributed).

I was up at the front the whole time, and everyone near me knew every single tune and was singing along, fists in the air, smiles on their faces. Adny was doing his usual quiet thing: laying low in the back, gauging crowd response, professional to the end. He took the mike for "What's Up With That?" (which I know from the Master Plan incarnation) and we finally got a glimpse of the new sound.

The set list didn't let me down; they did everything (except "I Stand Tall") including several Wild Kingdom tunes ("Haircut and Attitude," "The Party Starts Now!") and the great new tunes. Fave Handsome One Moment of the night: during the break at the end of "I Am Right" he launched into a story involving his grandmother, Ada ("she's no longer with us, but I'm sure she'd be happy if I told her story"), and an argument in her kitchen from Handsome's childhood over a particularly overcooked hamburger (allowing him to throw in a Raging Bull, "it defeats its own purpose" bit): "I had about 80 pounds on her," Handsome confided in us, "and she went down. But I told her: I am right!"

I only wish they had played some more tunes from the forthcoming album, which Keith Streng has remarked are among the best Andy Shernoff songs he's heard. At the end, The Handsome One shouted, "thanks for remembering," which sounded a little odd coming from a band which disavows "reunion shows" and nostalgia, but...).

In short, what band balances tightness, tongue-in-cheek humor, rocking out, dedication, and love-for-hooks like these guys?

HDM and Ross

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