23 March 2014

Dirty Pretty Things, Soton Uni 5 May 2006

Southampton University Students Union gets some pretty good rock bands in the grand scheme of things. Last night I experienced the new phenomenon that is Dirty Pretty Things and I mean lived it, up close and personal. Before the gig a restless crowd of about 300 was jostling and maneuvering for best views of the tiny stage but when the band came on the sudden surge of movement left everyone yards from their carefully elbowed spot…
... this is little short of a riot. Dozens swell back and forth carrying unwitting passengers whose feet are off the ground. My mate Steve chooses to edge backwards, I let myself be carried forward on the tidal wave. Within a couple of minutes I am pressed to the stage front with the weight of hot sweaty students pressing hard all around. The music is loud and raucous. Punk rock that ex-Libertine Pete Doherty can only dream of now, while his former band mate Carl Barat swaggers and strides the stage with boyish good looks and black leather charm, singing chidingly, “Bang bang, you're dead, always so easily led.”
This is frightening and exhilarating. Youngsters all around are driven to a frenzy of excitement and this ageing rocker is squeezed in with them. Several crowd surfers pass over my head kicking me in the neck and back. Twice I am swamped to the floor by the tide of humanity. Once a girl lands on top of me, her plump white folds pounding the breath out of my lungs. We find our feet but the long laces of my trainers are hopelessly undone. Another surge and I am practically lifted off my feet. The heat is like a powerful furnace. All around people are wilting under the pressure. Pushing and shoving, hanging on to friends for grim death. My tee shirt is stuck to me like a wet rag. I go down again this time with a group of about ten. Hands and arms reach from the stifling blackness and help us upright then the crowds press in again hot and hard.
The material is all untried apart from the current single but is so reminiscent of the late lamented Libertines that it is immediately accessible. The handful of original Libertines tracks bring deafening roars and waves of further frenzy from the crowd.

By the time the final number comes I am completely overheating, dehydrated and close to fainting. I have been swept from one side of the stage to the other, been at the front then pushed backwards. The body heat is now unbearable and my eyes sting from my biting, salty sweat. Just as I am about to be overwhelmed a passage opens to my left and I stumble blindly into a brief gap. I lean against the side wall and put my head in my hands. Slowly I regain my breath as sweat streams down my face and neck. My ribs hurt like hell and I know they are bruised, if not cracked.

The band returns for an encore but I am beaten. I continue my slow recovery stage left and I am thinking when people ask in years to come, “Where were you when Dirty Pretty Things played their debut tour?” I’ll say, “I was there mate, soaked and filthy and stinking.” Maybe they will just say, “Dirty who…?"

The cold night air brings sweet relief and I meet Steve outside. “You were at the front?” he quizzes, “that’s bloody rock and roll!”

When you are too old to feel the noise like this you really are too old for life. Oh and the music? Yes, punk rock with style and attitude.


Russell Duffy said...

Always was a damn good review.

Perfect Virgo said...

It remains the most frenzied gig I was ever at.