Christened as ‘A Long Weekend Of Empty Bottles’, Tyla and his Dogs announced a short run of dates celebrating the 30th anniversary of ‘A Graveyard Of Empty Bottles’ recently. Dates in York and Birmingham to be special shows previewing acoustic and electric shows that will form part of the following two nights of celebration in London.
Classed by some as the best acoustic album ever released (me included), ‘A Graveyard Of Empty Bottles’ is a timeless snapshot of the classic Dogs D’amour line up at their peak. Recorded in December 1988 over a 10 day period, the album captures the essence of a band riding on the tail end of a whirlwind year and the comedown that followed a sold out, end of the year Astoria show.
The 8 song collection of ‘soft songs for hard people’ has recently been re- recorded by the current Dogs D’amour line up, and while I initially gave it a wide birth, I have to say the new version does bring something fresh to a bunch of songs I always felt should not be tampered with. In fact, I liked it enough in the lead up to this gig, that I only went and purchased the vinyl for the collection.
Joining the band on this little adventure are London’s finest rock ‘n’ roll reprobates The Dirty Strangers. Still led by loveable rogue Alan Clayton, a man with more Rolling Stones connections than Mick Jagger’s heart surgeon. In fact Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards both played on their debut album back in 1987, they even roped in The Damned’s Brian James and Joe Brown along the way too.
The four-piece band play no-frills, dirty rock ‘n’ roll, just the way it should be played. The singer, dressed in a stripy top and pork pie hat, a telecaster slung over his lanky frame, leads his band through a selection of bar-room boogie rock ‘n’ roll. The raw and unadulterated twelve-bar boogie of ‘Bad Girls’, with its “woo-hoo’s” hollering and some tinkling of the ivories sounds great and the low slung rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Are You Satisfied?’ goes down a charm. The singer and bassist share a mic for vocals on several songs in full Jagger & Richards style. And it doesn’t get more rock ‘n’ roll than ‘Gold Cortina’ does it? Full of cheeky cockney charm and rock ‘n’ roll swagger, The Dirty Strangers were the perfect band to open proceedings tonight. Great stuff indeed.
The Fulford Arms is classed as a hometown show for Tyla and The Dogs these days. It’s intimate, it’s packed and it’s hot… very hot. The band is playing two sets tonight, one acoustic and one electric, the anticipation is high and the atmosphere is electric.
“Who gave him a mic?” says Tyla, as drummer Simon starts with the piss-taking before the singer has even picked up his acoustic guitar. The joking continues for most of the night. With the band perched on barstools they launch straight into ‘Comfort Of The Devil’ followed by the fantastic ‘I Think It’s Love Again’. With the full band treatment these versions of ‘Graveyard..’ tracks are heavier and slower, but still contain those great infectious melodies. The latter particularly benefits from the updated treatment, it’s the little nuances in the arrangements, like where the band hold the note in the chorus just that little bit longer. It sounds ace.
This band have been a unit for a good few years now, live and in the studio, and it shows. The camaraderie and ability is second to none. Tyla plays acoustic, to his right guitarist Gaz rips on a telecaster and to his left the ever cool, vampiric Matty James, all dressed in black, doesn’t even break into a sweat on bass. The guys watch their leader for cues, they play off each other to perfection.
I’ve heard a few of these songs live before, but never all of them together, what a treat to behold! ‘Saviour’ is transformed from heartfelt balladry to a more bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll groover with added tinkling of the ivories and ‘Angel’ is still the sing a long hit single that never was.
The version of ‘Bullet Proof Poet’ they pull off tonight is simply stunning. An extended, tripped out version with Gaz ripping a killer solo. A song to get lost in, it’s over in minutes, yet somehow, it feels like we’ve been lost in it for hours.
Tyla takes over on bass duties and Matty brings out the blues harp for a mesmerising, sweat-soaked blues workout. I think it was called ‘Stealin’ From The Devil’? Correct me if I’m wrong.
A couple of killer tunes from last year’s excellent return to form ‘In Vino Veritas’ album (namely ‘I Don’t Love Anyone’ and ‘Bottle Of Red’) round off set one nicely. As Gaz suggests we all go outside to cool down while the guys prepare the stage for round 2.
Tyla’s bottle of red is on its last legs already as he straps on that iconic road worn Gretsch and strikes out the opening chords to ‘Billy Two Rivers’, the first of a small greatest hits set. Songs to sing a long to and songs to drink to, songs that soundtrack our youth and transition into adulthood. It’s nice to see some younger dudes and dudettes in attendance, many who weren’t even born when Tyla first hit the stages with these tunes.
Classic follows classic, ‘Last Bandit’ is as amazing as ever, ‘Firework Girl enthralls and induces goosebumps and ‘How Come It Never Rains’ is the ultimate drunk and sweaty sing along it was meant to be.
By the time we get to ‘I Don’t Want You To Go’ Tyla is visibly struggling in the heat, (as we all are) and finishes the last few songs perched on an amp. The red wine has all but gone and he looks ready for a nap. But he ain’t quite done yet. ‘Satellite Kid’ rounds off the hottest, sweatiest gig of the year so far as we all sing a long and smile for the final time this evening.
I feel very lucky to have witnessed this band in this venue multiple times. Every gig has been different, from various album celebrations to just good, old fashioned hits shows. Sometimes I’ve been drunk, sometimes I’ve been sober, but every time it has been a blast. Like a fine red wine Tyla’s Dogs D’amour get better each time I see them, I never take it for granted and I will always come back for more. At the end of the day, it’s one of my favourite songwriters singing some of my favourite songs in my local watering hole. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Author: Ben Hughes
Photos courtesy of Neil Vary Gig Photography