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Live in 1998

Coney Island High, New York City
Dec. 31, 1998
Review by DFFD123
10 . . .

The Dictators mount the stage well after Dick Clark has bid the East Coast a happy 1999, but the party starts now. The world champions blow the crowd back on their heels with the one-two-three punch of fist-pumping anthems "New York New York," "Haircut and Attitude" and "Master Race Rock."

9 . . .

Speaking of punches and fists . . . all the world's got a one-way ticket to heck! New Year's Eve is certainly amateur night worldwide, and Coney Island High is no exception tonight. A dazed girl makes her way onstage and babbles incoherently into the mic until Manitoba tires of her. A gangly stage diver in a wife-beater keeps getting busted by security. A blond chick gets her ass kicked in the most amazing catfight I've ever had ringside seats to. Other scuffles abound, but alas, no food fight.

8 . . .

"Minnesota Strip"!

7 . . .

The 'Tators play "Faster & Louder" and "Sonic Reducer" back to back again, with a segue that they've been using the past couple of shows. It definitely sounds cool, but I miss their virtuoso display of playing the last few notes of "Faster & Louder" in unison. It's awesome.

6 . . .

They start the new "What's Up With That?"--at least that's what I call it--and all the stage lights go out, except for a flashlight on Adny. When the lights come on a few seconds later, I see that the blond chick who lost the catfight has taken advantage of the complete darkness to make her way back over to suprise-attack the other woman; the returning light, however, forces her to scurry away.

5 . . .

Manitoba announces his intention to run for mayor of New York City. The sole stated issue of his platform: You can smoke marijuana in the street and not be bothered. He is well on his way to being elected.

4 . . .

Manitoba shows off his sassy Stone Cold Steve Austin T-shirt and goes off on what a great wrestler he is. The man next to us keeps yelling, "Fuck Stone Cold!" Many other folks have plenty to say on the subject, but it's hard to make much out in the din. Still, it's heartening to know that the guy who repeatedly requests "Back to Africa" is in attendance again tonight.

3 . . .

Manitoba takes a moment to declare his unrepentant heterosexuality. You know, for those of us who might have been wondering.

2 . . .

The band tears into "I Am Right," and the blond chick has returned to the arena of doom, this time in disguise with a blue hood pulled over her head. Clearly dumber than a box of hay, she repeatedly fails to deliver her can of whup-ass to the other woman.

1 . . .

Returning for the encore, Top Ten is wearing a fashionable handmade T-shirt with "HAPPY NEW YEAR" scrawled on the back and the slightly less cheerful "KILL REPUBLICANS" on the front. With their genius signature tunes "Next Big Thing" and "Two-Tub Man," the 'Tators end a terrific show, and a milestone year.

CBGBs, New York City
Nov.6, 1998
Review by David Pier (

It was Handsome Dick Manitoba vs. Jesse "the Body" Ventura in a battle of wits, body slams and music on Friday, November 6, at CBGBs. Headlining a CMJ Music Festival show in New York, New York, the Dictators played a fast, furious and slightly-over-an-hour set.

Flashback: It's September 1976, I convince Rab (Robert), a friend from years past, to head over to CBGBs to check out the Dictators. I'm excited as hell. There's new (to me anyway) music to be heard, plus I was learning how to play the guitar, so it was sure to be an educational evening--even though I still wasn't sure who or what Handsome Dick Manitoba was. The "Go Girl Crazy!" album showed four guys in the band. Who is this person they call the secret weapon? What's the big deal about eating breakfast with him? Why the fascination with the Canadian province of Manitoba? (To this day I'm not sure about this last one.) Upon entering the bar, there's this guy onstage singing the theme song of "The Beverly Hillbillies." I say disdainfully (to no one in particular), "Who's this?" A girl turns around and says, "It's the Dictators." I'm like, "Oh."

Wearing homegrown Yankee apparel with a Jewish star added makes Manitoba a marked man for the new governor of Minnesota. The Dictators played what has become a standard set (give or take a couple). They added the new "Moronite Inferno" and "I'm All Wrapped Up" (What's Up With That, Adny?). Both tunes feature the dual vocals of Handsome Dick and Adny. Great stuff. Manitoba is on a hot streak: first it's the Yankees' glorious season, next it's taking credit (rightfully so) for the election results in Minnesota.

Back to 1976: One hour later, the Dictators take the stage, HDM wearing a red sequined bolero jacket (with a picture of the beautiful Lake Manitoba on the back) and a "Planet of the Apes" mask. The band starts off with "The Next Big Thing." I stand on my chair, Rab sits down.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time critiquing the bands that preceded the Dictators' show at CBs. Hey, I've got a listed number. The Swingin' Neckbreakers and the Hellofalottaseventiesclichescopters demonstrated some good stuff. Power chords will only take you so far; eventually you need Ross the Boss to provide the hook. Great songwriting doesn't hurt the effort.

Rab is falling asleep. An hour later, two women come onstage to get naked as a promotion for a Dictators appearance at the Ms. Bare Pageant. I tap Rab on the shoulder and point to the stage. Rab finally stands. I've always wanted to somehow relive that evening. I did try the next evening, along with a different friend.

Yep, it's November 1998, Handsome Dick Manitoba kicked Jesse "the Mind" Ventura's ass, and I got to hear Handsome Dick Manitoba sing the theme song to "The Beverly Hillbillies" as a prelude to "The Next Big Thing." All over again.

CBGBs, New York City
Nov.6, 1998
Review by John R.

Was that a killer set at CBGBs or what??? Man, they just put the hammer down and didn't let up! Not a whole lot of between-song banter from H.D., but when he did talk, it was as hysterical as usual.

Being that it was part of the CMJ thing, I think they were really pumped up to show all the industry people who the true champions are, and they certainly did. I was impressed with the amount of younger fans there who were HEAVILY into it-- they even sang all the words! Maybe there is hope after all.

The new stuff is fantastic; can't wait for it to be released. And thank God they played "Weekend." Even H.D. said it may be the ultimate Dictators song. I hope they don't ever drop that from the set.

Upstairs at Nick's, Philadelphia
Oct. 31, 1998
Review by DFFD123

When a band as great as the Dictators deigns to play its heart out for you, it is customary to seek an encore.

Well, it was a big night of rock 'n' roll, so maybe everyone was just too tuckered out to cheer for more. Openers Wastoid somehow managed to put on an arena rock show with a $5 budget and won me over with the anthem "Rock Like Hell" and their firm belief that a flashlight is really just a tiny spotlight.

The Devil Dogs followed, after a very long break that featured the Fabulous Andy G. going berserk over amp problems. Difficulties resolved, the Dogs took the stage and, well, rocked like hell. It has been a long four years without them.

Their turn at hand, the 'Tators were fired up, blasting into "New York New York." Other classics followed, as well as a furious version of "Who Will Save Rock & Roll?" The Handsome One cracked wise about the City of Brotherly Love and cringed when the crowd begged for more volume from Ross. Two really good new songs were played; one had a chorus of "What's Up With That?". The crowd seemed really into it all--moshing, singing along, pumping fists. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly.

But no "Two Tub Man." No "Next Big Thing." And lord knows there was no "Minnesota Strip." Who knows what other masterful performances we could've been witness to had there not been that overwhelming silence at the end of the Dictators' set.

What's up with that, Philly?

Brighton Bar, Long Branch, N.J.
Oct. 23, 1998
Review by David Pier (

A live performance by the Dictators is not without certain rituals. There are the synchronized guitar windmills by Top Ten and Ross the Boss, Handsome Dick Manitoba's verbal jabs against Ross the Boss regarding Ross's choice of sports teams (N.J. Devils/N.Y. Mets) and living quarters (1 Tennis Drive), and HDM's praise of Andy Shernoff's songwriting ability. And even back in the heady days of 1976, HDM understood the value of stage presence, decked out in a red sequined bolero jacket and a Planet of the Apes mask.

On a Friday night in Long Branch, New Jersey, the Dictators worked their magic. Handsome Dick wasted no time telling the audience how happy he was that the Yankees concluded the baseball season with a World Series championship. They introduced two new songs, "Moronite Tonight" and "I'm Wrapped Up" (?), the latter using a riff from "My Best Friend's Girlfriend" by the Cars. Both songs sounded like they've been part of the act for years. If Andy's songwriting over the last two years is any indication, the new stuff scheduled for release in 1999 should be vintage Dictators.

They also played "New York New York," "Science Gone Too Far," "'The Next Big Thing," "Weekend" and "Faster & Louder," among others, and cranked out the Manitoba anthems "Two Tub Man" and "I Am Right" (another recent Shernoff gem).

With the baseball season over, what will the Handsome One do this winter? Hmmm, maybe finish off the new record.

Brighton Bar, Long Branch, N.J.
Oct. 23, 1998
Review by JMQ

Despite bad sound (no bass, distorted vocals--have you EVER been to a Dictators show with good sound?), the 'Tators put on great show on Friday.

Handsome Dick was his usual witty self and Ross played extremely tasty leads and fills--he just gets better with age. I didn't think that Top Ten generated as many sparks on stage as he did during the July show at the Brighton, but he was highly enjoyable to watch none the less. Andy did what he does, and J.P. is a much better drummer than Richie T. and he provides strong background vocals, but I do miss Richie taking over lead vocals for a song like "What Goes On."

Also, according to HDM's onstage banter, he found out recently during down time in the studio that Ross is a closet Dead fan while Top Ten enjoys the Monkees' "Daydream Believer." And, that while HDM is nuts about baseball, J.P. likes NASCAR (!). Show highlights for me included "Stay With Me," "Baby Lets Twist" and especially "Who Will Save Rock and Roll" which truly kicked ass.

Picked up "Bloobrothers" on CD at the show--it sounds GREAT and is a must buy, with killer liner notes from Top Ten that describe perfectly what the mid-'70s scene was like. His notes reminded me of how anybody who saw or heard the Dictators back then really appreciates what a revelation and salvation they were at the time, and why we will always be fans. It also confirms all the more so what a sin it is that any rock fan with a pulse wasn't and hasn't been turned on to this great band, while many others with less talent got the breaks they needed and made it big. Maybe it will happen with this re-release and the new album, due out in early '99, although with the state of radio and MTV these days, that will be difficult.

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