Dandy Warhols : Manchester Academy

It's frankly exhilarating what this band can do.

May 19

1950s bikini babes rip themselves out of their clothes on the backdrop. The Last Of The Punk Mohican Duuuudes stands topless centre stage, whispering and hissing and battering dark Satanic throbs out of electronic pads like he’s leading a drum workshop in the Glastonbury Green Fields in Hell. The keyboardist has turned into her from the B52s if she didn’t wash for a month and a small bush is playing drums. And the noise dragging the Academy on its knees through an electronic Sodom is a menacing new breed of rock’n’roll, like hearing Primal Scream playing ‘Rocks’ from the other side of a cosmic wormhole. It’s dark and sticky in this monkey house, and there’s blood on the walls…

We’re not painting daisies on our toes at the boho camp-fire singalong anymore, Toto. A long time ago The Dandy Warhols used to be Ride, but they haven’t whooshed much lately at all. Instead, with Nick Rhodes bringing the dank, bloodless cadaver of New Romantic electronica to ‘Welcome To The Monkey House’ and Courtney Taylor-Taylor bringing the world’s most louche punk haircut to the party (“Am I having a Silly Hair War with David Beckham?” he’ll squint at NME later, “aw man, his haircuts are so badly timed”), the Warhols’ live show has swapped the joss-stick aura of the basement bongfest for the Xanax paranoia of the madhouse at pill-time.

Then Courtney strums an acoustic version of ‘Everyday Should Be A Holiday’ like a heartbroken hobo and the mood utterly flips. It’s frankly exhilarating what this band can do. The Standard Gig Rulebook is skinned up and chuffed tonight – they play two sets of 80 minutes apiece with a ten minute spliff break (so they’re actually supporting themselves) and hey, if it weren’t for that bummer of an eleven o’clock curfew they’d play ’til, like, August. Coherent set-lists? Duuude, set-lists are for squares. The Warhols take random requests for ‘Cool As Kim Deal,’ and ‘Hard-On For Jesus’, knock out their hot new hit single ‘We Used To Be Friends’ on the dot of eight-thirty and end with a ten minute smack-Velvets take on ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ with Courtney heavy-breathing rock’s most romantic lyrics ever and Zia apparently playing lunar winds. Woah.

There are simply No Rules anymore, so why limit yourself? They stuff tonight’s gig with Big Pop Hits (‘Bohemian Like You’, ‘Get Off’, ‘Boys Better’, ‘Junkie…’), but tomorrow they might just do their dark-soul Sun-Ra drone thing for three hours if the mood takes them. You’re welcome into a Dandy Warhols gig, but whether you strip bare-ass naked and freak out like a junglebound Daniella Westbrook or don’t even listen to the band at all, they’re cool with that. Because The Dandy Warhols are a lifestyle, not a performance; an intoxicating and unpredictable band to visit, but an incredible band to be in. “That was so much fuuuuun…” Zia drawls as Courtney stubs his last butt and slinks off to declare dawn rising over the Arndale Centre as “just beautiful” (probably). Hey, who wants to forget work tomorrow and just, like, go to ‘Frisco?

Mark Beaumont