Monday, 7 December 2009

Vintage Dirty Three Are More Vital Than Ever Before...

Tonight's triumphant return to the London stage could not have been timed better. Lest we forget, and i assure you i won't...DIRTY THREE ARE THE BEST ROCK N ROLL BAND ON THE PLANET, bar none....

This is no idle boast by the way..this is gospel.

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, Dec 7th, 2009

A violin, a drum kit and a guitar? no effects, no stacks of amps? it shouldnt be possible to make noises as beautiful and brutal, as apocalyptic as this with such a sparse set-up.

but listen, Dirty Three have been a fuckin revelation for years and so the industry continues to remain largely ignorant to their exceptional and original talents. If that music show on BBC2 has managed to ignore them for however long that show's been running, then there's a fair chance that when the band play London in ten years hence, nothing will have changed. Except the tv show probably wont be on anymore

They have curated ATP, sold out Shepherds Bush Empire, and yet the music press, the radio and the television people probably think they broke up long ago. It irks me, but i guess no more than most things one has to deal with when running a label. It's my challenge, to keep ensuring more new people are turned on to their music and it was beautiful to see such a diverse and predominantly young crowd there tonight.

In what can occassionally be a 'pleasant room' for live music, the dirty three from melbourne transformed QEH into a burning cauldron of emotive sounds and feeling that captivated all of us present.

In my forty something years of confusion and contemplation on our sceptred isle, i have spent many days being sad angry and bewildered, confused euphoric and hurt, in love and out of love, happy, in pain, bitter, and rarely content. Dirty Three have been my companion through all of these days and i love their music like the oldest and dearest of friends. I simply could not have imagined existing without it.

After a stunning set of new songs from Josh T Pearson which brought tears to my eyes, for oh so many reasons, Warren Ellis, Mick Turner and Jim White stroll onstage to a warm welcome.

As Warren approaches the mic he begins to improvise a fabulous fantasy horror tale about being trapped in a chalet at butlins by a burning made us laugh hard before they launch into a blistering version of Last Horse In The Sand, a wonderful song to open with, from our first release with the band Ocean Songs. Then in what is one of my best live moments of 2009, they started to play Some Summers They Drop Like Flys from the extraordinary Whatever You Love You Are album which is certainly one of the greatest records of all time.
They return to the earlier Ocean Songs for a mesmerising rendition of Sea Above Sky Below.
Initially so soft and subtle, the song builds with mick and his morphine waltz guitar, delicately fingering graceful arpeggios while rocking slowly back and forth on his heels. Jim White makes his brushes flap softly like a hummingbird hovering above water...before his beaters with their white cottonbud heads begin creating the thunder rumbling above, a warning ahead of the crashing waves, as Warren's sad lament turns from at once gentle lilt to full force storm. Suddenly the clouds part and its over.

The drama is disturbed briefly by an inane question from the audience about Warren's shoes which he deflects masterfully.

Then all of a sudden we're into Authentic Celestial Music.
The last time I saw the band play this was at the Barbican with Nick Cave and it was an epiphany. Could this top that?
Yes. Mick Turner, "The kid from Black Rock". is tall and watchful, with his boyish charm, like a young Charlton Heston as he builds his chords, stepping through C to D to E with such poise, beside him the flayiing arms of the bearded Ellis and the blur of Jim White's hands as the song moves to an almost unbearable climax. I shake my head in disbelief at how amazing this show is. So-fucking-what they dont play any new material? If i could write one song half as good as any of these, i'd die a happy man.

Everything is fucked.
With turner's elegiac opening, this song really is classic Dirty Three. Warren's violin has rarely sounded more vital as the poetry of jim's initial clatterings suddenly see the song explode in a whirl of arms. Jim White's kit would sound incredible tonight even if it all collapsed around him. As mics fall, as the legs of the floor tom, give way, Jim still manages to paint picassos with his brushes. Yes of course he's the greatest drummer in the world but tonight is still a fuckin revelation to me, and I've seen the band 20 times.

Kims Dirt. one of the first ever Dirty Three songs, if not THE first, which was written with Kim Salmon, sees Ellis walk over and perch on the front of the stage, as White crouches into his snare, and caresses his wood block. At times Jim is like a master magician at work, so sleight is his hand. Where others hit the skin, Jim plays it, and lives inside it. When he drops his stick on to the snare its not a mistake, it is HIS music. When he throws his tambourine on to his cymbal it is to add yet more colour to the palette.

For some reason i am hearing this as an old Russian folk song as if it were being played by Erik Satie on looped guitar! In this very moment it simply illustrates why the Dirty Three are still the most important rock group on this earth. Ellis, the master alchemist, conducts this fantastic music not with a baton but with his entire body and soul. Every muscle and tendon is working overtime as he pulls notes and ushers sounds from the sky as if they were bolts from the clouds. Barely moving one moment, he suddenly leaps, like a coiled panther ready to strike, into the air with a wild kick of his leg, and the music suddenly erupts again.

The word 'THREE' really is SO important. I was in Cocteau Twins and perhaps always felt a spare part, even though i know my contributions were as vital as the others', so i can appreciate how important that we recognise the three of them.

"The next song is all about finding yourself dead in the back of the car cos you had too much fun and it's dedicated to anyone's who's dead or dying here tonight." We ARE laughing but the fact is Warren, we haven't felt this alive at a show in a long time.

Su's last ride is from the album Horse Stories that we recently re-issued after it had been out of print for a while and is another of my all-time favourite D3 songs. So tonight is like my greatest hits show! But unlike a greatest hits show, where the songs will likely sound dull and lifeless and without any of the original energy that drew you in in the first place, the Dirty Three tonight have pulled the skin from these songs and ruffled the feathers so now they are new beasts altogether, recognisable but more important than they have ever been.

As the song begins, Warren lies prostrate on the floor like he is lying in state, and yet while his back is flat and his eyes are looking up to heaven, he manages to strum his violin without moving. This is music I could not imagine having lived without, and makes me think of my friend Al Brooker from the much missed Gwei-lo who died onstage aged 24. He had Dirty Three played throughout his funeral and it was one of the most special moments. Sue's Last Ride builds and drops, once and again, and then as she approaches the gates to heaven, there is a wonderful pause, a long one, maybe 20 seconds, when a lesser audience would have reckoned this to be the end and broken the moment with a misplaced clap, but not one peep was uttered, and then...... CRASH! They are soon banging on the door to be let in, making a racket so magnificently unholy that you'd have to be insane to let them in.

They end with Some Things I Just Dont Want To Know, from WYLYA album and a more fitting finale they could not have chosen.

If you have yet to go to a Dirty Three concert, i urge you that it goes on top of that hush-hush list of things to do before dying.

Everything about tonight was just about perfect. I feel so lucky that i got to see them again.


1 comment:

  1. I have been listening to their song/video, "Sea Above, Sky Below" on Pitchfork TV, lately.
    No words to describe it... sigh!
    You could paste here the link for that video. I was just about to do it but I was not sure if I should.

    Have a nice day!


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