Dirty Honey were born to rock ‘n’ roll, the music a vital part of their DNA. With their first headline tour of the UK sold out in advance, only their third appearance following a brief jaunt opening for Rival Sons and a slot at Download Festival last year, the rise of the Californian quartet seems more than just a future promise.
Dirty Honey – Waterfront, Norwich – 21 January 2023
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Steve Ritchie
Having made such a seismic impact, the band have the confidence of having gone from playing the pavement in Sunset Boulevard in front of a hundred people to walking the stages in stadiums in front of thousands opening for the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses, KISS and The Who.
Despite this, there’s no sense of arrogance here and whilst they exude the sort of cool that only bands like The Rolling Stones have refined, the hard work and commitment is evident in every note played.
Rough-edged and raw, Gypsy opens with a rush of adrenaline, John Notto’s propulsive riff and Marc LaBelle’s distinctive L.A. meets Southern Rock vocals full of fire as bass player Justin Smolian and new drummer Jaydon Bean blend grooves and heavyweight punch. It’s a breathless start and one lapped up by the crowd.
Break You is all pounding power and raw sex, LaBelle’s vocals stratospheric and when they follow with the huge hook of Heartbreaker, the sound of the audience singing along to every word is a mark of just how far they’ve come already.
What Dirty Honey seem to have embraced fully is the Aerosmith school of ‘let the music do the talking’, the focus on the writing and playing, rather than relying on gimmicks, the nearest the band come to the latter being their ever-present sunglasses.
What they have is something that sees them move easily between the clubs and stadiums with nothing lost, something that Jagger and Tyler’s crews mastered many years ago. With perfectly retooled covers of Zeppelin’s What Is And What Should Never Be and Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy worked into the set, tipping their hats to influences, it says a lot that these are fun, but their own material stands up well alongside them.
The apocalyptic Scars and gritty No Warning sizzle with youthful energy and purpose, their structures showing a real grasp of dynamics, and the bluesy swing of Down The Road harks back to Creedence Clearwater at their prime.
Given its sledgehammer punch, the new track Ride On bodes well for the future, with Bean and Smolian adding a real weight to the bottom end while Notto draws a titanic riff from his Les Paul, his solo on California Dreamin equally impressive.
With a tight but loose style, the quartet manage to walk the tightrope between control and chaos with verve, LaBelle the perfect ringmaster keeping the sold-out venue hanging on every word and his bandmates all adding an energy that seems at once graceful yet dangerous.
The soul-soaked Another Last Time and anthemic hit single When I’m Gone close the show before an encore of Rolling 7s brings the night to a close, its rootsy earthiness and skyscraping force leaves both audience and band spent.
It’s a phenomenal start to the tour and one that, in a few years’ time, many more than capacity will claim to be present, the sense of witnessing the next stage of something truly world-shaking tangible.
Make no mistake, Dirty Honey are going to be huge.