The Dirtbombs chose a particularly nasty night to arrive in Ottawa — gusty northern winds had pushed the temperature below freezing and uprooted trees and hydro lines, knocking out power to about 400,000 people in Ontario in the process —  but while the streets were almost empty, the Dom was packed with a sellout crowd hungry for a repeat of the Dirtbombs staggering performance at the Ottawa Bluesfest in July.

First up were the Sights. They had closed out Bluesfest with the Dirtbombs, but that performance had not been up to the high standard displayed at a previous Ottawa show. This time around there was far less drinking going on, and the entire band was much tighter. Organist  Bobby Emmett was also sounding much better, primarily because of the indoor venue. Drummer Dave Shettler excelled as always, with a hair-and-stick flailing demonstration of rhythmic power.

Among the show highlights was an energetic version of Tommy Dorsey’s gospel fave 'Live the Life' (undoubtedly the Dirtbombs/Sights crowd was most familiar with the Oblivions’ version). As the show came to a close singer-guitarist Eddie Baranek got into a violent disagreement with his Gibson hollowbody; it ended in scree.

There was a somewhat overlong break as the Dirtbombs’ two drum kits were set up; Mick Collins’ trio of effects pedals and an aged amplifier took some cossetting before they operated properly, and cut out twice during the show. That delay aside, the band exploded out of the gate with a high-energy rock attack. Benjamin Blackwell  (who looked like he just stepped off a surfboard) and Patrick Pantano (who looked like he just stumbled out a drunk tank), the band’s remarkably coordinated drummers, laid down the rhythm like nobody’s business; Ko Shih stomped and posed as she pulled out fuzz from her bass; Mick Collins, of course, provided his usual soulful vocals and garage-shredder guitar. The Dirtbombs are notorious for their line up changes, and it was no surprise to see that Detroit super-producer Jim Diamond, who no doubt had other obligations, had been replaced. The band could hardly have done better than to recruit former Troy Gregory, solo artist and lead singer of the Witches, in the second bass slot. Gregory once played bass for Flotsam and Jetsam, and was nearly recruited by Metallica; needless to say he filled his role as both bassist and backing singer most ably.

The band ran through  a setlist cribbed both from the new album, 'Dangerous Magical Noise' and older releases like 'Chariots of The Gods' ( a storming 'Candy Ass') and the band’s debut LP ('I Can’t Stop Thinkin’ About It'). There was some hijinx when various Sights members came on stage wearing baboon masks and shaking their bums. (Both bands had apparently made a raid on a costume store; Shih had a koala mask suspended from her mic stand, but apparently decided that wearing it would be too much of a bother.) Unfortunately, the brief stage invasion also briefly knocked out Collins’ amp when someone stepped on a cable. (Collins also pulled half-a-dozen female audience members on stage to dance along to the band’s last pre-encore number — remarkably, no one stepped on anything vital.)

Such technical difficulties didn’t prevent the band from ripping through their set. Highlights included excellent versions of Phil Lynott’s 'Ode To A Black Man' and Curtis Mayfield’s 'Kung Fu'.

The band was compelled to return for a pair of encores, before drummer Blackwell brought things to a close  by kicking over his drum kit (but not too aggressively — it has to last the tour, you know ...). Blackwell obviously likes a little post-show athleticism. At this year’s Ottawa Bluesfest he leapt from the top of Jim Diamond’s bass amplifier to the stage rafters. Unfortunately, the Dominion Tavern doesn’t have any rafters; instead, Blackwell jumped on the tallest thing available: Mick Collins, and was consequently carried off stage piggyback style.

The show wasn’t quite the revelation that their Bluesfest appearance had been, but it was still awesome.











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Commenting On: Dominion Tavern, Ottawa, 13/11/2003 - Dirtbombs/Sights








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