Live Review: The Dandy Warhols at The Wiltern Theater

October 3, 2008
Week Of Shows,
Episode Seven

If all you knew about The Dandy Warhols’ leader – Courtney Taylor-Taylor – came from the documentary DiG!, you might be under the impression that he’s an ego-motivated, publishing royalty-hogging narcissist.  And you’re probably right.  But whether or not he’s a danger to himself and his band, he’s also enviably talented and prolific.  Part of what’s continually set The Dandy Warhols apart from other purveyors of smart, self-aware pop tunes with limitless and obvious influences has been their ability to find moments on their records for unexpected, experimental sub-rock vignettes to separate their radio-friendly wares.  It’s in these moments that Taylor-Taylor and company show depth, demonstrating their development as artists while simultaneously keeping the rest of their material fresh.

We Used To Be Friends: The Dandy Warhols at The Wiltern.

We Used To Be Friends: The Dandy Warhols at The Wiltern.

So it’s ironic that what’s made The Dandy Warhols most intriguing to listen to over the years also made them relatively uninteresting to watch live Friday night at the Wiltern Theater.

It would be unfair to expect any rock band to put on a live exposé of just their best-known, up-tempo songs, particularly when touring in support of a new effort (in this case, …Earth To The Dandy Warhols).  But at the same time, it’s not unreasonable to expect a group to deliver the goods with minimal self-indulgence.  That’s sort of the unspoken understanding between rock fans and their idols – “You can play the new stuff and the ones that make you feel artsy, but don’t forget the hits.  We paid for this shit.  Don’t get all Van Morrison on us.”

Things got off to a good start with the show opener, “Minnesoter” (from 1997’s The Dandy Warhols Come Down or their Black Album, depending how you want to look at it), but rapidly decayed into an uninspiring showcase of new material and less-than-live-friendly meanderings.  A once-bobbing crowd grew sedate, then became thinner as the night wore on.

This isn’t to say the group avoided their most popular songs entirely, but it was a Friday night, and people wanted to have fun and dance, generally all at once — and for sustained periods of time.

To that end, the show’s zenith was the triple threat of “All The Money Or The Simple Life Honey,” (which Taylor-Taylor introduced as “appropriate for L.A./Hollywood.”) “Bohemian Like You” and “Get Off.”  At no time during the night before or after was the crowd as kinetic as when this trio hit – made evident when keyboardist Zia McCabe’s face burst into a spontaneous grin as she surveyed the energized crowd during “Bohemian.”

Soon after, a pair of women beside me wondered aloud if they were then going to hear “Everyday Is Like A Holiday” (no), “We Used To Be Friends” (no), or “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth (very understandably, no).

There were plenty of other well-known songs in the set (“Sleep,” the Bowie-esque “You Were The Last High,” “Godless” and “Welcome To The Third World” were high points, as was the first single from …Earth, “The World People Together (Come On)”), but the odd pacing and order of these songs combined with others (such as “The New Country” and “The Legend Of The Last Of The Outlaw Truckers…”) made the night a mixed bag at best.

By the time things got going again with the set-enders “Boys Better” and “Country Leaver,” a lot of the crowd was gone and there was plenty of room in the pit to stroll right up to the front of the stage.  Not a sold-out affair to begin with (with pockets in the balcony painfully bare), the Dandies must have decided it was time for them to go, too – and left without an encore.

Come to think of it – those unsold seats?  Maybe the people who didn’t come saw The Dandy Warhols last time around, and knew what to expect.

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