Dog Is Dead – Nottingham Boat Club, Monday October 8
(originally published in Metro and the Nottingham Post)
To mark the launch of their debut album, Dog Is Dead brought it all the way back home. Not to Rock City, as might have been expected, but south of the river, to the part of town where they grew up.
“It’s good to be back”, said singer Rob Milton, “especially so close to home… NG2!” At the age of 13, Rob played his second ever gig at the legendary Boat Club, once the hottest venue in town (Zeppelin, Sabbath, and the Pistols all played there in the Seventies), and you could feel something of the old atmosphere returning to the old place, as the heat rose and the sweat flew.
Inspired by the band’s formative Bridgford years, All Our Favourite Stories is an album about the joys and sorrows of being young and growing up. Some of the songs were written when the boys were still in their teens; they tend to be the quirkier, brasher ones. Others are so new that they have never been performed live before; they’re the reflective, bitter-sweet ones, whose anthemic choruses are underpinned by a certain sense of melancholy.
For one night only, the band tore up their usual set list, opting to play the album in full, in the same track sequence. This approach wouldn’t work for all albums, but the structure of All Our Favourite Stories lends itself perfectly to the concept; if you were the DJ at an indie disco, this is probably how you’d sequence the tracks anyway.
Opening with the sombre Get Low, and building the mood with the mid-paced groove of Do The Right Thing, the five lads (plus an extra mystery guitarist, tucked away at the back of the stage) reached full throttle on the excellent Teenage Daughter. This, you quickly realised, is a band who have learnt a lot from their summer on the festival circuit. They sometimes used to be a little cautious on stage, never quite letting go of their reserve. That’s all gone now. Once you’ve played in front of 5000 up-for-it punters at Reading and Leeds, there’s just no place for it any more. This made Teenage Daughter a perfect vehicle for the new, turbo-charged, no-holds-barred Dog Is Dead to open up, let rip, and have fun. It came as no surprise to learn that this will be the next single.
Four singles in a row followed it, from the brand new Talk Through The Night to the evergreen Glockenspiel Song. (When Trev slipped off his bass and reached for his sax, you knew what was coming up next.) The already vocal crowd were word perfect on this old favourite, navigating all of its twists and turns, filling the room with its chanted choruses, and turning it into a triumphant homecoming anthem: “Oh this town, it’s so electric; since I got the feeling, I can’t shut down.”
New song Heal It steadied the energy levels, sounding beefier and rockier on stage than in its Trevor Horn-produced album version. Then came the climax: a storming version of River Jordan, which played to all of the band’s new-found strengths. A future Glastonbury anthem, if ever there was one. One more track – the mournful, questioning Any Movement – and it was all over, despite calls for an encore that lasted long after the house lights had come up. Well, when you’ve just played the ten tracks that mean more to you than any others, where else is there left to go?
The rest of the UK will be getting them towards the end of the month, as they begin their biggest UK tour to date. We got them early, for a very special performance with a “friends and family” atmosphere all of its own. And we’ll be getting them again in March, when they return to Rock City for their second headlining show there. It’s been a long time coming, but Dog Is Dead are finally getting the national recognition they deserve – and it couldn’t be more richly deserved, either. All this and Jake Bugg too? Nottingham’s rocking the nation like never before, and we can all feel proud.