"Dirty Water Club"
The Dome
Tufnell Park, London
September 13, 2006

Words & Pictures: PETE CRAVEN

A coupla days back I looked up at the poster on my wall of the ‘Birdman 2003 Euro Tour and realized that this latest gig in London is on the exact same day as 3 years ago… lucky 13 huh!

It’s been years (and then some…) since I was last at a gig at The Dome, and after a drink in the pub next door we make our way into the club and up the stairs. The venue is already filling up nicely. All girl Japanese band The Suzan open up, and from my vantage slot at the bar they are okay enough with their poppy swampy garage sounds, but to be honest I spend a majority of the time they are on stage catching up with people. Up to about 3 weeks ago The Barracudas were being advertised on the Dirty Water Club website as being the main support act. They then had to pull out, which was disappointing, but a replacement was found in former Flamin’ Groovie Chris Wilson, and his Groovin’ Flames. But word spreads thru the bar that they too are now not playing either. Not sure what the story was there.

Following The Suzan there’s some fine discs played to get us warmed up for the main attraction… “Television Addict” “I’m Stranded” “Slave Girl” “City Slang”… and with the clock pushing 10:30pm, and the venue by now jammed to the rafters, the ‘Birdmen assemble on the stage. Equipment plugged in, fingers flexed, Rob grabs the mic… and the band launch in to “Burn My Eye”… and then they hit us again with a salvo of classics… “Non Stop Girls” “Do the Pop” and “I-94”…

Deniz tells the crowd that they are going to play some new sounds, which I recall were “Die Like April” “You Just Make it Worse” and track #1 on the new album “We’ve Come so Far (To be Here Today)”. I read that they have been opening up their recent sets in Australia with this song and I think that works brilliantly, because although it’s an autobiographical tale of the bands journey from-there-to-here, it’s also true of the route many a seasoned ‘Bird-fan has taken too over the years with their loyalty and passion for the RB legacy.

More classics, including: “Smith and Wesson Blues” “Hand of Law” “Endzone”… and “Maelstrom” does exactly what it says on the packet… sending the crowd into a frenzy. “Hungry Cannibals” (from “Zeno Beach”) is played at a hyperbolic rate… my brother yells into my ear that it has a certain early Hoodoo Gurus garage stomp to it, and he’s right y’know! After a coupla spins of the new album, the standout track for me was “Locked Up” and tonight it sounds fuckin’ awesome, a total pedal-to-the-floor rocker with a killer riff and some epic sonic guitar duelling from Deniz and Chris. “Aloha Steve and Danno” has become the bands signature tune I guess, and it gets the crowd going nuts, everyone knows this song and the sweating mass hang on to every word and dance their socks off…. it’s a cracking end to the main set.

Back on stage after a few minutes, big grins all around, and Pip Hoyle hits the keyboard with those oh-so-familiar chords of “Love Kills”… essential slow burning ’Birdman… and Pip then leads the band into a raucous run thru “Zeno Beach”… where you can “ride the surf in to the magic bay”… sounds a fine place to me. More familiar opening chords, it’s The Stooges “Search and Destroy”… and Rob ’n the boys are the one band you can guarantee will respect and honour this most righteous song, one of the greatest ever in my humble opinion. And we all know what’s gonna bring the show to a close (right??!!)… the fist in the air hi-energy-punk injection that is “New Race”… those in the know, know the drill, and we sing and dance our hearts out.

No doubt, this was a first rate set by ‘Birdman, and going by their reaction on stage as the lights go up, they’ve enjoyed it too. I’ve been pumping the new album on my stereo for a few weeks, and it was great to hear a selection of those songs live. Listening to them again will definitely give an increased dimension. The band themselves were so incredibly tight, the twin guitar attack was devastating. Towards the end of the set Deniz paid tribute to in-attendance Ron Keeley and thanked him for his contribution to the band, as well as a lasting friendship he has with them. I have to say… his replacement Russell Hopkinson is phenomenal. The guy is a total powerhouse, and I was mighty impressed. Jim Dickson is so solid, and what with his close connections with various ‘Birdman (since the beginning of time!!) it’s seems he was always destined to enter the fold one day. And of course, Mr Rob Younger… still fuckin’ doin’ it… still got the voice, still got the moves, and… apart from a new’ish lookin’ pair of Cuban heels… still sporting those same faded black threads that have served him well in the past few decades. An absolute legend!

So yeah, 2006… ‘Birdman are for now riding high, and risen from the ashes… catch ‘em while you can…