It’s been a few years since Tyla has graced us with his presence here at The Fulford Arms, what with lockdowns, ill health and all that jazz. Still, here we are celebrating 40 years of The Dogs D’amour with a few low-key shows at independent venues across the country. The first weekender is a couple of ‘spiritual home’ gigs for the band, and following last night’s tour opener at Bannerman’s in Edinburgh, Tyla and the gang roll into York for a sold-out show that will probably be tinged with sadness following the announcement of Quireboys original guitarist Guy Bailey’s passing just the day before.

Up first we have local troubadour Daniel Lucas aka Boss Caine. The last time I saw him live was probably supporting The Dogs here actually. Covid times don’t seem to have changed the man too much, the hair is shorter and the cowboy hat has been replaced by a flat cap, but the song remains the same.

Opening with ‘Ghosts And Drunks’ sets the scene nicely with mournful chords and sandpaper vocals that sit somewhere on the nicer side of Tom Waits. His storytelling and observations of life, whether his or those around him are captivating, and he has a way of drawing you in and paying attention. Just a man and his acoustic guitar with a bunch of tales of love, loss and addiction seems quite a fitting match for the main attraction and the growing crowd seem to think so too by the response. 

I’m sure most live reviews of The Dogs D’amour could start with the sentence “Tyla looks like he has a had a few bevvies already as he takes to the stage”, and tonight is one of those nights. Dressed in an oversized suit, sporting a big, shaggy beard and his dyed black hair longer than I can ever remember him wearing it, the Wolverhampton Wanderer looks like Lemmy meets Fagin and he is in good spirits tonight, or should I say is full of good spirits tonight!

You cannot dislike the gloriously ramshackle sound that The Dogs D’amour create in any guise, and they are always entertaining live. Tyla has written many songs that soundtrack my youth, from those very early days up until the early 2000’s anyway. And as the band are celebrating 40 years of The Dogs D’amour, they are doing things a bit differently tonight. Not only is it a set of just classic songs, but it is also played chronologically, with stories and anecdotes in-between each song from the main man and songwriter himself. Whether half of these stories are true, only one man knows, but its comedy gold all the same.

As Tyla picks the opening notes to ‘Heroine’ those who are witnessing things for the first time may wonder whether he’ll make it through the first song without fucking it up, of course he does! Between songs Tyla explains the origin of each song he is about to play, usually with the words “anyway, and so the next day…” or something similar. And what transpires is possibly a dream set list for any fan of classic Dogs material. None are actually introduced by name, but he doesn’t need to do that, we know them all anyway. From early obscurities like ‘The State I’m In’ and ‘How Do You Fall In Love Again’ to chart bothering singles (“we were on Top Of The Pops you know!”) such as ‘How Come It Never Rains’ and ‘Satellite Kid’, to personal favourites such as ‘Last Bandit’ (dedicated to Guy), ‘Firework Girl’ and ‘Billy Two Rivers’ it is all delivered with passion.

Backed as ever by guitarist Gaz Pennick and fellow Balladmongrel Matty James Cassidy on bass, the band are suitably ramshackle, yet never on the verge of falling apart. Props to drummer Dave Cumming who stood in for the much-missed Simon Hanson for these shows.

Tyla sips from a pint of Guinness between songs and performs several songs sat on a chair. His banter is comedy gold and the stories are informative. Who ever knew that ‘Angel’ was inspired by a guy in a bowler hat who narrowly missed getting squashed by a falling fridge freezer, but Tyla changed it to a piano as it sounded cooler? Did Bukowski have such inspiration to draw from I wonder?

When Gaz informs Tyla they only have time for 3 more songs, he calls Matty over to take lead vocals for the latest Balladmongrels single ‘How The Beautiful Fall’ before ending the set with a killer singalong of ‘Drunk Like Me’.

Armed with the most sentimental of melodies and the most poetic lyrics, The Dogs D’amour came to celebrate 40 years of debauchery and York came with their loudest voices to sing every chorus back to them. A good time, no a great time.

Author: Ben Hughes