The Dandy Warhols @ The Astoria

By: Sophia Al-Maria
Photos: Nicole Kai Kobilansky

In a month, the Astoria, London’s famous rock venue, will be a pile of rubble and rebar on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross. It’s been site to some of the greatest acts of the ‘90s. Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Oasis, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and Pearl Jam all played gigs and passed through its puddely back-alley entrance. Radiohead filmed their 1994 concert tape Live at the Astoria, here. The list goes on and on with a who’s who of grunge and shoe-gazey greatness. So I feel quite lucky to have had the chance to see the still perfectly intact legends The Dandy Warhols in the Astoria before the whole place is knocked down to make way for the new Crossrail Underground system.

When I walked up onto the balcony, past the Keith Moon Bar, the place looked gutted, the arched ceiling and walls were covered with gooey tar-colored paint, the corral fencing glinted cold and metal along the front of the pit and the crowd was a sparse mixture of aging (heavily tattooed) ICP fans and “bohemian” girls in leggings, flannel and artfully cocked berets.

We were treated to most of Johnny Cash With His Hot and Cold Guitar before the disco balls began spinning and a giant LED backdrop flared up.Then the Dandys or Warhols, as they’re variously called by wide-eyed a-wu-hu-huuing fans, came on stage on time and proceeded to play for over two and a half hours. They only waited five songs before they fired up, “Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth”, thrilling the entire crowd and turning the bottom floor of the Astoria into a rumpus room.

They graciously accepted requests from the audience and changed their setlist multiple times responding to “Minnesoter! Play Minnesoter!” with their wacky middle-Americana classic. And when a lone drunken voice wailed out of the pit, “TV Theme Song! Wooo!” Courtney Taylor-Taylor courteously responded, “Weird. That’s our first song off our first album. How long has it been since we played that?” looking side to side for a go ahead from his band mates – “Like, one-hundred years,” answered Keyboard/Mouth-Organist Zia McCabe – Taylor-Taylor shrugged, asking “How does it go again?” while mincing out the first few bars. The others immediately swelled up behind him without missing a beat and carried the song through like those hundred years were only yesterday.

Up until about that halfway mark, though, I was feeling staunchly unimpressed by the performance, but I couldn’t help being charmed when they warned “last song” three times before Taylor-Taylor heaved, “We are so gonna get into big trouble, you guys”, and then launched into yet another number. Here was a band of rock ‘n’ roll veterans with hopelessly devoted fans who still enjoy playing their music and obviously love spending time with each other and their fans. I’ve never seen bona fide rock stars show such gratitude. It’s nice. They didn’t even make us beg for an encore. And the only break (which was brief) came when Zia McCabe and Brent DeBoer scurried off stage to down a couple of shots out of plastic cups while Taylor-Taylor kept us company with a sing-a-long.

Reluctant as they were to vacate the stage, The Dandy Warhols won’t be sharing the Astoria’s sad fate. With their latest album, . . . Earth to The Dandy Warhols . . ., doing well with both critics, fans and younger audiences hearing them for the first time, I do believe that well into their second decade together The Dandy Warhols are just hitting their prime.

PS Nicole and I loitering outside the back entrance. Goddamn I’ll miss this city.

PPS You can read the original on SoundProof.

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