(First posted on http://www.recessiondodgetovictory.wordpress.com on 26/11/2012)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band in question. Massive thanks go out to the Setlistfm, Lastfm and the Youtubers whose content that I have used either indirectly or directly in this blog post.

In the lead up to Converge and their amazing support act line-up coming on Wednesday, I wasn’t really as up for this one as I could’ve been. It was my first time in Oran Mor and the west end venue meant that I would have to power-walk 25-30 minutes to get back in time to reach my last train home in the centre of town. That’s not to mention the gig landed on a Sunday and I have a big week lined up ahead of me, both at work and in my personal life. Then my laptop died on me on the Saturday before and I almost never bothered to show up. Ho-hum!

But my circumstances weren’t the only barrier to my excitement for Dirty Three. You’d think I’d have been jumping at the chance to see them considering my short, sharp introduction to the band. After that gig, I listened to the band over and over and simply failed to capture the experience I had in listening to them live. No shivers went up my spine and I if anything I just felt truly morose while listening to them on different public transport journeys; nothing like the uplifting peaks and climaxes that I remembered at the show.

I had tried to punt my ticket over Facebook without success and decided that I would head along any how. Fuelled by Touche Amore in preparation for Wednesday, I really wasn’t in the right mindset for this one.

However, I did manage to get a sneaky listen to Zun Zun Egui a week or so beforehand and was pretty impressed with them to the point where I considered picking up an album at the gig, especially for the title track “Katang” After hearing their record and reading some online reviews praising their hipster chic, I had concluded that if anything they reminded me of Frank Zappa.

After seeing their short live set though, my opinion changed from seeing them as more than just an ode to the legend (whom I still struggle to really get into – more listens for me required). The stage lights came up, leaving me with the impression that they were just about every band from the 80s ever, combined into one fantastic orchestrated mess with choral, almost African-like folk singing over the top – good stuff all in all. They’re a great wee band that I’m hoping to see do well. I hope they produce a lot more music but, at the same time, they left the crowd digesting what had just been played rather than feeling awed or excited. I’d be glad to see them in the support slot again.

And I don’t think Oran Mor helped in that. It was my first time in the venue beyond a work Christmas function some years ago and the first thing that hit me were rainbow murals and Christian messages scattered all the way up to the rafters in the tall ceiling – presumably left-over from the time when the building was a church. Stylistically, it meant that the venue was pretty apt looking for the ϋber-indie All-Tomorrow’s-Parties type bands that were playing but the tall ceiling meant that the drums drowned out a lot of the guitaring, piano, keyboard and violin of both bands on the set list from where I was standing.

In the short interlude, I didn’t have much time to worry about when the headliners were going to show, or how quickly I’d have to leave to get to my train on time, as without any audible queues beyond a quick whoop from the crowd, Warren Ellis and his filthy trio of noise-makers had arrived.

The memories I had of the original live show returned to me pretty quickly, as I’d forgotten how well Warren was able to talk to a crowd in an intimate environment with a whimsical, nonsensical candour that came across at times like a rock-and-roll grandfather telling stories of his glory days – not making any sense while remaining equal parts enviable, hilarious and inspiring. Every song was introduced at length, to the point where Mick Turner and Jim White had begun playing the next song to try and have Ellis hurry up and get on with it. Like any good storyteller, he wouldn’t be rushed, sometimes to the point of frustration – particularly later on in the set.

Then they would open up with a slow building song and the shivers up my spine had come back, and I remembered what it was like to hear Dirty Three for what they really are; exclusively as a live experience. The recorded music doesn’t capture the expression and strength of every drum-pound or the strength of plucked violin strings. Openers, “Rain Song” and “Sometimes I Forget What You’ve Done” stood out to me, while the crowd saved their cheers for “The Pier” and “The Restless Waves” where the latter saw Ellis interrupt his violin playing to gurn and pose on top of a speaker-stack.

Again, Oran Mor’s acoustics marred the show as I really couldn’t hear the guitar lines and lost some of the expression in the quieter moments of the violin as the drums echoed and pounded over the top of everything. Thankfully, Jim White makes the instrument his own and that in and of itself was interesting enough to listen to but… not a venue I’ll be excited to come back to, particularly if it means cutting a gig short like I had to.

In summary, I feel the same way I do about Dirty Three as I do about most bands of their genre – they can be hit or miss. As with Mono last year, I felt that a number of variables could mess up the show, whether it’s a crappy support act or venue issues. Again, like Mono, I’d be happy to see them as a larger set of bands or at a festival (All Tomorrow’s Parties springs to mind again) but I’d be risking getting my money’s worth out of the ticket price if I saw them as headliners of a small show like this one again.

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