Live in Spain
Bergara and Madrid
March 5 and 6, 1999
Review and photos by Thesego211
And I froog, I robot, I boogaloo, I twist, and I shake. . . .
"Faster and Louder" attitude to change my airline ticket as there's some confusion as to the actual dates between web posts, Andy and the Spanish promoter. Fly from Nice, France, to Madrid, Spain, pick up my Hertz reservation and drive north to Bilbao in search of the Dictators.
Bergara isn't marked on my map and the goons at Hertz didn't help. Arrive at Bilbao in search of gas and a local geography expert. Let's hope Andy's "it's in Basque country near Bilbao" is right. Pump attendant sends me forth east on the highway to a town called Vergera. Here I'm assured in bad French that I can pick up the road marked Bergara. It's looking really in the middle of nowhere!
Bergara, hooray, it's marked. Pay toll and set off inland up a valley having its laundry day. Wet cold and drizzle. Arrive Bergara, small town probably less than 7,000 people. Jam is located fast. I manage to get a member of the staff to let me inside through the side door and he brings Mike Sobieski Bajo of the Pleasure Fuckers and acting road manager (excellent job, fellah) to have a word with me. He assures me the ticket situation will be cool and just in case he'll put me on the guest list.
I spot Top Ten setting up his gear and blasting through some chords. Ross is manhandling an amp into place. JP is tightening chrome, and the Handsome One is quiet and contemplative.
Cat's got my tongue, the place is pretty vast inside, everyone's occupied and I'm off to take care of my logistics.
Carpark, hotel, alcohol, dinner, more alcohol and a change of clothes. Layered Robin Byrd T-shirt and "Just Blow Me--Keywest" souvenir and NYC cap in back pocket, five to ten, let's GO!
On arrival it's clear that the woodwork is emptying itself as the crowd is really growing. I eat my thoughts about low attendance. Even a dude in a wheelchair. Official figures say 700; it might have been more. Varied array of types and T-shirts. And they are all under 30, so I'm the oldie! Well, let's go in and shake the Pooh Bar!
I'm inside. We check in the nonessentials, beer is found and off to the front. A quick chat with the locals to see the frequency level, pretty low. Soon change that. Support group the Hot Dogs is a good warm-up act and the adrenalin is just beginning to meet high tide, and then whoooooooooooshhhhhh.What I've waited for for 20 years. . . .
Top Ten walks on first--then everyone else. "Shake the Pooh Bar" raises a smile from the boys. A quick word from Dick in Spanish, then it's showtime.
Top Ten and Ross in Bergara
Put on the cap. . . . NEW YORK NEW YORK! And I turn inside out. The crowd doesn't really know how to respond, but they soon catch on, and they're chanting NY NY. Hard-hitting and it's brilliant. Don't forget most haven't been to America and have a heavy Catholic/dictatorship history. Never mind I'm morphing into plasma mode and the paella is bowing to the burger patty!
HAIRCUT AND ATTITUDE is next and it's all just perfect. I can't believe my ears or eyes for finally the two converse on the audiovisual kick of seeing and hearing the Dictators live. And once more it's actually them, not some postage-stamp inner-sleeve photo this time.
Dick thanks the crowd--no baseball talk here, more like sincere gratitude for the appreciation; he seems touched by the turnout. Obviously the Wild Kingdom album is very popular here, but. . . .
What's this--it's back to the days of MASTER RACE ROCK and the air guitarists assemble!
SG custom wails and Ross is smiling his ass off. Manitoba derobes to his psalm sermon T-shirt and the stage antics increase as the whole thing goes nuclear.
SCIENCE GONE TOO FAR builds from the initial onslaught crescendo of the guitars. The Dictators are repeatedly lancing the boil of assembled Spanish teenage pimples.
JP is a blur, Top Ten is test pilot for the pick industry and Ross is bending Ernie('s) Ball('s) into submission. The Handsome One is out to prove, at least for Adny's sake, that "Manifest Destiny" deserves a second listen and release on CD.
A new song, MORONIC INFERNO, not out of place and some seemed even to know the words. The Dictators are eager to let in some new material and it's taken well. In a way it's a relief to everyone that the test flight has gone well. Staleness will not set in, as there is more to look forward to-- from both sides.
BABY LET'S TWIST was especially great to hear since "Bloodbrothers" is available now and there is a live version on the rereleased live album. And once more this is a big hit with the locals, and now it's the girls who come forward to groove. America shows them how to do it; they are stunned mullet at the professionalism of it all. It's the real thing--no posing, no hype, just top fuel.
THE PARTY STARTS NOW sees my cap now in the hands of Manitoba and it goes into orbit. Full flow. . . . Is there anywhere left to go? Yes, the solo finds the gas pedal and JP bangs it to the floor.
The new WHAT'S UP WITH THAT, which is a pastiche a la Adny, is 110% Dictators supremo material. The NY flavour is strong and this has to be a household classic.
MINNESOTA STRIP opens with Ross teeing off with the Marshall stack for some feedback and what can I say, the Spanish go beserk, ballistic . . . what a riff. The Handsome One gets down and the clandestine feel of the song falls on the hall. Top Ten and Andy take up the buffalo stance.
The assault continues wave after wave. WHO WILL SAVE ROCK 'N' ROLL is next and that's it, the future of the band is secure. The single is well known here and the ritual is complete. Manitoba incites the crowd to kick out the jams and jibes Ross about "Queens."
FASTER & LOUDER is the only way to go and who's enjoying themselves more is hard to tell?! Now SONIC REDUCER, then the aptly named comeback anthem for Manitoba, I AM RIGHT (laugh, I nearly pissed myself). STAY WITH ME is done to perfection--feedback et al--and completes the set. The Dictators drenched in sweat leave the stage, and the chants and banging commence, which lead into at least three encores with WEEKEND, CALIFORNIA SUN, SAVAGE BEAT and TWO TUB and more. They just keep giving out and were all pigs in shit. "Quantity is quality!"
Perfect sound, incredible showmanship, tight as f**k, Top Ten is the anchorman extraordinaire really advancing away on the Strat. Ross dresses the song with his lead garnish and Dick just gulps it down and back out through the mic. Andy keeps a low profile, having written the material, but there is a lot of visual conversation between he and Dick. JP looks like the last five minutes of a porno flick--one big blur. Rock 'n' roll just couldn't get better in any area. Atomic meltdown! A few stage dives were to be seen. The guys seemed to be enjoying themselves and happy to be getting the crowd revved up. Sound quality was brilliant and I was expecting to be cheated out of lead licks either due to live constraints or sound problems. I need not have worried. Not too loud but LOUD. As far as I was concerned, it was by far and away the best concert I've ever been to. Better than the record, no fubbles--zilch--and all as fresh and perfect as the first time you ever listened to the Dictators. This is one band that does not have a shelf life. I lost 10 years that night.
Can you believe a gig like that? How can you top it? Well, they did on the next night in Madrid and I was lucky enough to be there!
Uncle Handsome in Madrid
Smaller, sophisticated, subterranean club. 10 PM and a large line of people outside. 11PM and the Dictators arrive front-door style and pass through the crowd with the promoter and enter quickly, followed by the hoarde. A low, low stage meant an intimate, in-your-face gig. Same set list, again multiple encores, which saw the inclusion of THE NEXT BIG THING. Much more verbiage from the Handsome One. We all went under the power of Manitoba. Strong doses of "Let's Go" and "Dictators Assemble" were the order for the night. The crowd was extremely passionate and active, singing along, mucho air guitar, stage jumping, crushing waves of fans against the stage. Being a capital city, the fans were much more extroverted and confident, so the joint was really jumping. Manitoba egging everyone on and complimenting the turnout and the Madrid nightlife. Jibes to Ross de rigeur. Top Ten and JP really physical and menacing. Ross having a ball, Andy laughing at the "Beating up the kids from Spain" lyric. And Manitoba lapping it up. It was brilliant.
The backstage quote from the Handsome One dressed in his wrestling "Stone Cold" T puffing a cigar was: "We're an acquired taste. You either love us or hate us."
All that remains to be said is a BIG THANK YOU to the band and the promoter, the roadies, the poster man and whoever else was involved in pulling it all off. That it's for sure, the Dictators are a musical force to be reckoned with, especially now they are touring internationally with a new album in the works (apparently nine songs canned so far).
Having shaken the pooh bar,