Formed in Portland, Oregon in the early 1990s, the Dandy Warhols achieved moderate mainstream success later in the decade with hit singles like "Bohemian Like You" and "Everyday Should be a Holiday", the latter featured on the soundtrack for the enormously popular comedy There's Something About Mary. While the group's brush with Top-40 stardom was relatively short-lived, their music has stood the test of time for college radio crowds and those who justifiably or inexplicably lean towards 90s nostalgia in their musical preferences. The group's signature psychedelic revival meets Brit-pop sound with a hint of glam rock posturing make them an interesting and notable cultural artifact of the period, as well as a great addition to a party-bound mix tape. All that being said, why on earth would this group be touring in 2012? Could seeing the Dandy Warhols live well past their prime (in my case, last Saturday at the Corona Theatre) be an absolutely depressing waste of time?
What may be considered depressing about this situation is the fact the Dandys are touring to support their latest release, This Machine, lukewarmly received by critics due to its attempts at sounding more 'grown up' and 'sober'. If you've never seen Ondi Timoner's documentary Dig!, you probably won't fully grasp the absolute self-absorbed immaturity and drug-addled mania that inspired the group when they were churning out their most well-received material. This insanity is also part of what makes the group such interesting characters, at once absolutely repulsive (for example, Courtney Taylor-Taylor's constant cracked-out boy-model posturing on stage and off and general dick-head attitude) yet completely alluring. Considering they've lost this spark in their new music, I was concerned that their live performance would be lacklustre at best.
Opening for the group were 1776, a standard, three-piece band that sound like a combination of every monolithic rock group to ever grace a Bluenotes rock tee. Too self-aware to be charming and without a hint of stage presence, passion or attempts at musical innovation, I found the group to be a depressing reminder of who, to this day, has a stronghold over the music industry (cough, baby boomers).
Second openers were shoegazers Psychic Ills, whose frontman Tres Warren is absolutely mesmerizing and has a great voice for the drone-y sounds they produce but the group's live performance isn't exactly a forte. I really enjoyed the group's sound, but would suggest picking up a record instead to trekking out to see them in the flesh.
The Dandy Warhols' set, much to my surprise, was very engaging and sounded kind of great. While Courtney Taylor-Taylor's falsetto has become a little sad in his middle-age, he managed to pull it off a couple of times with ease; largely, the vocals had been re-arranged to accommodate his lower vocal range. The group had great energy as they performed selection of hits in chronological order, mixing in new material towards the end of the night. Crowd-pleasing hits performed included "We Used to be Friends", the oft-requested "Horse Pills", "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" and Taylor-Taylor's solo rendition of "Every Day Should be a Holiday" (a personal favourite of the night). The Dandys kept their material fresh, linking old favourites together with unexpected, spacey jamming keeping tough critics, like yours truly, entranced in the performance instead of watching the clock, waiting for the set to end. The group had great stage presence and seemed to have a good sense of humour about what they were doing. Overall, a surprising and impressive set.