Artist: Dirty Pretty Things
Venue: The Henry Fonda Theater, Hollywood
Date: August 8th, 2006
GHOST DREAMS AND FADED HOPES MAY LINGER, BUT THESE SWIFTLY SWAGGERING MOD-PUNKS WILL WAKE YOU UP…AWARD THEM THEIR MEDALS BECAUSE THEY DON’T SLOUCH, AND PLEASE DON’T MENTION OLD FRIENDS NO LONGER FOUND…
Over a hundred Rock ‘N Roll kids posted up along the wall outside the Fonda. Down the alleyway behind the venue you could distinctly hear a preview of the set for the evening; throbbing bass, jangle-y jack-knife guitars and a monstrous drum sound rolled along while a low voice floated over the fray. They start a new number, the guitars pick out a few choice notes. These melodies are instantly recognizable to the fans outside, sending smiles of excitement up and down the line. They were running through a song by the indie-legends of the new millennium, the likely lads who had the world in their grasp once known as The Libertines. Over half the crowd was sporting t-shirts, bags and badges emblazoned with images of this now-expired band.
The Libertines were once accurately described as a band that “changed the face of British music”. This daunting legacy cast a long shadow over the evening. Anticipation was extremely high to witness the American live debut of the phoenix that has risen from the ashes of The Libertines; the four-piece Dirty Pretty Things.
The audience was a true cult following personified, the Los Angeles version of the great international indie-rock tribe. These ladies and gents were already well-familiar with the brand new album Waterloo To Anywhere. The buzzing chatter in line was the latest news that lead singer / guitarist Carl Barat had broken his collarbone while tooling around on a motorbike on holiday in Taiwan. Sadly he was currently unable to play six-string in his most distinctive and brilliant style. The band had drafted in a replacement guitarist at the last minute. As Freddie once belted; the show must go on.
If the romantic symbol of The Libertines was a nineteenth century wooden ship called The Albion, then the Dirty Pretty Things symbol would be a modern gun-metal gray fighter jet, the DPT2KX. As the album shows, they’ve taken the key elements of their previous band, streamlined, refined and pushed it further into the heights of melodic punk rock intensity.
Draped high across the back of the stage hung a tremendous banner bearing a decorative playing card spade symbol and the cursive lettering of the band name. A row of deep blue lights soaked the stage front in a midnight ocean glow. People are impatiently yelling, girls are shrieking and suddenly there they are! Bassist Didz Hammond gears up on the far left, moving like a street-gang bruiser. Fill-in guitarist Josh from UK band The Paddingtons ambles about in his too-small jacket and black Beatles-era newsboy cap. Bringing up the rear in this formation is the under-rated Gary Powell in crisp white jeans, shirtless as he should be to bash out the marching band tornado rhythms that drive the group. On the far right strolls Anthony Rossamondo in a sharp black blazer. Anthony should be rewarded some military style medal for having to fill large shoes of pressure and unwanted expectations. He does so with a successful grace and an arsenal of stylish licks that can easily melt a few amplifier cables.
In the center of the stage, the eye of the hurricane and the one-of-two central characters in the legend of his former band stands the man of the moment. Carl’s right arm is slung in a sling made of a knotted Union Jack flag. Wound bandaging has never looked so cool. Anthony cuts into the shredded twang that introduces “Deadwood”. The performance energy level from the band careens off the charts. Carl smokes and cradles the microphone with ease, singing from an open heart as the crowd sings back at him as loud and in-key as they can. The swaggering chops of “Doctors And Dealers”follows. Except for pauses to remove jackets between songs, we’re running like a cheetah shot out of a cannon and there’s no slowing down for the rest of the night.
The high-energy of the crowd spews over into total chaos after Carl shyly mumbles something and the band plays the intro of “Death On The Stairs”, a fan-favorite track from the Libertines 2002 album. A very large section of the crowd is pogo-ing, mosh-ing and happily bashing into each other in joyful abandon. Fists are pumping in the air, drinks are being spilled and the force of the music is getting people off. Anthony plays the leads with a spikier, meaner edge than the versions on the new record. He scrapes and hacks at his instrument with a nimble stutter like a toothpick in blue jeans with something to prove. It’s too bad there is no decent bootleg recording of this live show, it was a unique and bitching mix of Anthony on lead and Carl crooning more as he focused on only the vocals.
The walls were sweating and the wooden floor trembled during new single “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead”. Gracious barrages of hipster hats, ladies underwear and scarves were hurled on stage. The band slipped off but the crowd bellowed for an encore. They returned shortly and Carl picked up the weathered tobacco sunburst Les Paul that had sat dormant in front of the drums all night. This image would have made an excellent t-shirt; Carl Barat with his strumming arm in a Union Jack sling, fuming curls pouring up from the tuning pegs of his guitar where the end of a smoke was clipped. The injured soldier boy sighed through the one mellow song of the night, the bittersweet beauty of “France”.
The encore ended with Carl’s signature from the old days of Albion; “I Get Along”. If the Rat Pack fans had Sinatra’s “My Way” to enjoy as they downed their dry martini’s, the 2K rock generation has “I Get Along” as a standard to blast while guzzling vodka and energy drinks. Dirty Pretty Things are a very smart modern punk rock band. It was a happy ending to a night that began with uncertainty if the show would even happen. The group left the stage as conquering heroes. The sooner they visit again, the better.