Dirty Harry Live at The Caves

dh1It’s been almost 4 years since Edinburgh-based Blondie Tribute band Dirty Harry played their first gig. I’ve seen them a few times since then, so going into their gig at The Caves, Edinburgh last Friday night, I could be certain of at least one thing – they were going to put on a very good show.

Dirty Harry are an instantly likeable band, not just because Blondie’s music is – to say the least – iconic, but because Sarah Kennedy (vocals), Steve Fraser (bass), Callum McNair (guitar), Simon McGlynn (drums) and Matt Bartlett (keys) really capture the essence of what it must’ve been like to be at a Blondie gig back in the day. So for a couple of hours on Friday night it wasn’t Edinburgh 2014 anymore, but New York 1980…

After kicking things off with Hanging on the Telephone, Sarah and the guys blew through 20 of Blondie’s hits from dh2their peak years. We were treated to songs such as X Offender and Kung Fu Girls from Blondie’s self titled debut album, all the monster hits from Plastic Letters, Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat, right up to The Tide is High and Rapture from 1980’s Autoamerican. Though their main focus was on these 5 albums, the band also included Maria from 1999’s No Exit. So it’s safe to say that nobody in the packed auditorium could possibly feel that they’d been short changed in any way!

Sarah has always been convincing as Debbie Harry, staying in character from the moment she walks on stage until she walks off at the end of the gig. However, I felt there was something subtly different about this performance compared to the last time I saw her a year ago. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time but having thought about it for a while, the best way I can describe it is she really OWNED the stage. Perhaps meeting Debbie Harry during their appearance on the BBC’s Viva Variety documentary had something to do with it. Perhaps its just good old fashioned hard work and attention to detail. Whatever, there was a completeness and roundness to her performance this time around which set it apart from previous gigs I’d seen.

On the way out I couldn’t help but wonder how this gig would compare to a contemporary Blondie concert. So while it was still fresh in my memory I had a look at a few recent Debbie Harry performances on YouTube. What is immediately obvious is that regardless dh5of how good she is, the Debbie Harry of 2014 can’t perform like the Debbie Harry of 1980. So to my mind, therein lies the real value of tribute bands – especially very good ones like Dirty Harry. Sometimes its only bands like them that can replicate the peak performances of iconic artists. So, I guess I’d go to a Blondie gig to say that I’ve seen Debbie Harry, but would go to a Dirty Harry gig to see Blondie at their best.

This seems like a good point to give a special mention to Dogtooth, who provided support. Dogtooth are a three-piece Mod band who only started started gigging in March of this year. Consisting of John Hewitson on lead vocals and guitar, Craig Morrison on bass and Robert Lang on drums, Dogtooth got the night underway with a very energetic set of classics. At first glance Dogtooth appear to be a direct tribute to The Jam’s classic lineup of Weller/Foxton/Buckler. However there is more to them than just that. In addition to covering songs from The Jam and and The Who, Dogtooth also crossed genres into punk and indie to give us some tracks from the Stranglers, The Clash, Talking Heads and The Stone Roses. Eclectic stuff indeed!

Perhaps the best aspect of this performance was the fact that Dogtooth included one of their own compositions. It’s kinda ballsy, I think, to drop one of your own songs in between a couple penned by the Modfather and the Stone Roses, but the biggest compliment dh4I can pay is that it didn’t seem out of place. And although they are still very much a work in progress, you could tell Dogtooth have been gigging a lot over the last nine months, since they were very tight and accurate throughout their 11 song set. I think it’s not out of order at this point to highlight the fact that the three members of the band will be probably be paying half-fares on the buses for a while yet. I’ve got tshirts that are way older than these guys! Mind you, Paul Weller started gigging with The Jam back in 1972 when he was 14 years old, and he did ok, didn’t he???

Dirty Harry feature in a Glam Tribute at Glasgow’s O2 ABC on 20 December.