Cracker by Damian Christie

Th' Dudes/Hello Sailor - A Review

(Wellington Opera House - 10 October 06)

If I was like, a proper gig reviewer I would also mention Hammond Gamble in the title bit up there. But we arrived late, so that didn’t happen. I’m sure it was, um, great.

Let's start with the bad eh? Honestly, Hello Sailor were disappointing. The only energy seemed to be provided in an oddly sporadic fashion by Graham Brazier, at inappropriate times. For example in his crooner-classic 'Blue Lady', each time he sang the eponymous words, he sort of let off a James Hetfield-like growl at the end of the word ‘Lady’. When he sang 'New Tattoo', again the chorus line was overly emphasized as though he was about to burst into a punk rendition. They might have had more hair than Th’ Dudes, but that was about all I can offer.

Still, I do have the line “you in my brain, you in my heart” (from 'Gutter Black') running over and over in my head today, proving that a great song is still a great song, decades on, even when it's not played that well any more.

Sailor’s relatively lackluster performance only served to emphasis how fucking great Th’ Dudes were, and still are. I’d spoken to Dobbyn the week before, when he was suffering pretty badly from bronchitis, or something throat-disabling, so I was a bit worried he might not be up to it. Similarly, I’d interviewed Peter on my Radio Active show on Saturday afternoon (1-4pm, listen on-line if you’re out of town) and he was pretty hoarse from the unaccustomed return to touring. But, sheeee-it, you wouldn’t notice it last night.

Urlich was right when he told me Dave’s guitar playing is better than it’s ever been. He’s so understated on stage, weedy and a lot shorter than the other guys, and he doesn’t bounce around like PU, but by God that man rocks. Jesus is obviously doing him a lot more favours than alcohol ever did. Ironically, his choice of non-alcohol refreshment provided the only technical hiccup of the evening, as he spilt cola on his gear.

In between songs the banter was great. Peter clearly appreciated the overwhelming response from the audience. Ian said the f-word and it was kinda like your dad trying to be cool. Dave joked about being run out of town by the Opera House manager twenty-six years ago after kicking lights off the Opera House stage. Apparently on returning this year, the very same manager was sitting in the ticket booth. “Decided to show your face, have you?” he asked, stone-faced.

I had chills as Dobbyn launched into ‘Be Mine Tonight’, and while I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘Bliss’, I was in a minority last night. As Peter jumped into the crowd so everyone could eagerly contribute their share of “yahhhhh, yah yah yah yahhhh’s”, it was hard to believe this was a band who reached their peak while I was discovering the wonders of rock pool marine life at Manurewa West Primary.

And they look great too. My flatmate and gig-partner Karen – who, much like me, was delighted for once to be amongst the youngest in the crowd – made positive murmuring noises about Ian Morris. The gyrating mums in the front row suggested she wasn’t alone. They might not be brand new, but Th’ Dudes have certainly still got it.