Live in Spain
El Sol, Madrid
Nov. 25, 2001
Review by Patrick Perez-Lopez
Tell me; how much longer can a bunch of rock leviathons, like New York's Dictators, remain the music universe's best kept secret ? How is it that five blokes who must surely be twice the average age of the wildly appreciative punters at Madrid's El Sol club are so much younger, faster and more scientific? Show me another band anywhere that can make you laugh like a drain whilst fielding the most devastating rock weaponry presently in existence and I'll turn in all my Stooges bootlegs -- actually, I feel pretty safe on that challenge.
It seemed like a pretty good idea to celebrate my birthday travelling from London to Madrid for my inaugural live experience of a band whose songs have stimulated so many nerves and neurons for such a long time. El Sol is a small club in a Madrid side-street so narrow that pie munchers could get permanently wedged in it. Pepe, the manager of Record Runner and organiser of the Spanish tour, had sold each and every ticket and the club was packed tighter than a jar of olives. The only thing more concentrated was the neutron star density of sound crashing onto the audience from the rock and roll Tsunami generated by the fearsome five.
The Handsome One looked tougher than a Miura bull -- I don't think I'll be picking a fight with him sometime soon. He sang, danced and cavorted with the energy and enthusiasm of a man singing each song live for the very first time. Top Ten looked as cool as the fifth member of the Clash and chopped the air with precision chords and razor hooks. Boy, was he enjoying himself; gurning at the crowd and striking heroic poses. Thunderbolt Patterson walloped his drums as though he detested every square millimetre of those skins. His live drum sound seems much fuller and rockier than in the studio. Andy Shernoff was the eye of the hurricane and managed to seem calm and even relaxed playing bass and pulling harmonies and the odd lead vocal from the heart of the storm. Does this man have liquid nitrogen in his veins? Ross the Boss's fretwork is the only thing so far identified by scientists as being faster than the speed of light. Why don't his fingers fly off in all directions? It's because they're attached with alien space glue.
The Dictators ripped through their portfolio of classic tunes; some new, some old and a couple borrowed, with an incandescent fervour. The older songs, including Two Tub, California Sun & New York New York seem as sparky as if they were minted yesterday. Newer songs (Can they really be nearly a quarter of a century old?) like Faster and Louder and Minnesota Strip fairly peeled the paint off the walls. What's truly astounding is that, after such a lengthy hiatus, the brand new songs (believe it; it's true, those trusty workaholics have just turned out a new album; that's at the rate of one new song every two years!) are just as good; maybe even better than the established catologue. Just imagine how fine their next album will be when it's released in ... er ... 2025 ! I'll have to put springs on my wheelchair so that I can still pogo. Who Will Save Rock and Roll might be the world's best song since Solomon penned his dirty ditties. I Am Right (boy, who made Andy so angry?) and Burn (how can such a boiling vat of aural testosterone be simultaneously funny?) are simply monster. A blast of Hey Ho, Let's Go and a rocking Sonic Reducer were the heartfelt tributes to the late Joey Ramone and Stiv Bators. Rock and Roll Heaven was a happier place last Saturday.
No duff tunes. No bum notes; even if the band ripped the piss out of Ross the Boss. These guys are exemplary. The Dictators are great because they play astounding rock and roll songs like demons and look and sound as though they're really enjoying it -- no tortured artists here then. The tunes are tough but El Sol was singing along and the rest of the world oughta. The songs are hard-edged but some can make you cackle with laughter while sending shivers through every cell.
The world should care about these guys because they care about something truly precious. Who will save Rock and Roll? What a stupid question!
With thanks and regards,