Steve Wilson. On music.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


The posted capacity of Kansas City’s Riot Room is 240.

In the early days of the new century Portland’s Dandy Warhols looked like the last of the rock stars. Their best record, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia (2000), earned critical plaudits and scored a hit of sorts with “Bohemian Like You,” while its successor, Welcome to the Monkey House, further expanded their audience.

The underground success of the 2004 documentary Dig, an unsparing look at the love/hate relationship between the band and their mentor-antagonists The Brian Jonestown Massacre, narrated by the Warhol’s singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor, also increased the band’s profile.

Since then the band has been marginalized by critics and seen its audience contract some. Earlier trips to the area included stops at larger venues like Lawrence’s Granada Theater and Liberty Hall.

Still, the audience that packed the Riot Room on Friday night was enthusiastic and receptive. Live, the Warhols continue to pack a punch. Their performance on Friday night was tight, at once driving and relaxed. Built from the pieces of 1968’s ultimate jam – equal parts Velvet Underground, “Satanic Majesties” Stones, and early Syd Barrett vintage Pink Floyd, and super modified by jolts of everything from Hawkwind and Spacemen 3 to Chic, the group’s seductive grooves and pop built tunes hold up well.

Most of those in attendance were clearly fans, singing along and dancing, which took commitment since the club felt like a stuffed phone booth inside of a sauna. Front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor made frequent references to “freezing.” The Dandy Warhols have always oozed irony, so go figure.

He also flattered the Kansas City audience as he noted the positive response to their cover of a Desmond Dekker song (“Intensified”), suggesting that previous dates on the tours had featured less astute fans.

Dekker’s “Intensified “ was good fun - not exactly ska, but certainly a nice change of pace from the band’s sparkling drone. Audience favorites from Monkey House, like “We Used to be Friends” kept the energy level high, but the fans saved their full rock out fervor for the trio of songs from Thirteen Tales, that climaxed the show - the band’s best-known song, the Stones-inspired “Bohemian Like You,” drawing the most enthusiastic reaction.

Zia McCabe’s keyboard playing is both bed of drone and chief instrumental voice. Taylor-Taylor and lead guitarist Peter Hellstrom, the band’s founders in 1994, lock in to a distinctive psych-groove with drummer Brent DeBoer, who in addition to driving the band is Taylor-Taylor’s chief harmony foil.

The band’s set list called for more songs than the band ultimately performed, the magisterial “Godless,” and “Boys Better,” an early favorite from the Dandy Warhols Come Down were omitted. I guess Mr. Taylor-Taylor really was freezing. The band played “Get Off” and did not return.

San Francisco’s Warlocks, veterans trafficking in Warhols-complementary garage-psych and bluesy shoegaze, opened the show. The band was tight, assured and well received by the audience.

This review was intended for the Kansas City Star's Back to Rockville blog. Traffic issues intervened. Sad to see good writing go to waste. So, here it is ... Reverberations-ized.