Dogstar / Keanu Reeves’ Band Triumph In Kentish Town

This was a sequel that was definitely worth waiting for. Previously, Dogstar were criminally overlooked, the press and public reaction to them seemingly lukewarm at best, despite some truly inspirational material. They went their separate ways in 2002.

Dogstar

O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Photography: Ryan Hildrew

Seemingly, many were dismissive of the involvement of their movie star bass player, perceiving Dogstar as just another role for someone wanting to play at being a rock star, blinding them to the quality of the outfit.

Dogstar - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 19 June 2024
Dogstar – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Here we are, some years later, and the reformed band has had to upgrade the venue from the Electric Ballroom to the nearby O2 Forum Kentish Town due to demand.

Tonight, the sold-out audience hung on every word and note as if it were the secret of life.
 
Certainly, most of the attention is now on the bass player, given that Keanu Reeves is one of the biggest film stars in the world and one of the nicest guys on the planet.

Dogstar - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 19 June 2024
Dogstar – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

However, singer/guitarist Bret Domrose and drummer Robert Mailhouse both add their own magic. Much to his credit, Reeves is content to stay out of the immediate spotlight, letting his playing speak for itself. Bereft of a microphone, he leaves all the talking to Domrose.

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Dogstar - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 19 June 2024
Dogstar – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Given that the crowd erupts with almost Beatle levels of hysteria when the actor walks on the stage, it’s both a wise and gracious move, the trio very much equal partners despite the star power present.

Each song is rapturously received, but really, that’s as much due to their quality than any other factor, the eighteen-song set full of anthemic and spiky slices of alt-rock.

Dogstar - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 19 June 2024
Dogstar – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Blonde is a soaring opener, its mix of abrasive guitar and big hooks a grandstanding and statement-making start, the trio kicking in with no fuss or fanfare, barring a brief nod to the crowd. Equally impressive, Lust is a twisted and urgent rush that goes through kaleidoscopic moods as it swings from pleasure to regret, the rhythms perfectly matching the mood.

All this is played with the minimum of fuss, the songs stripped of any excess fat, barring the occasional shuddering crescendo or mid-point turn. It’s all done with a stripped-back ethos that draws more from punk than the high art of outfits like Muse or Tool.

Dogstar - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 19 June 2024
Dogstar – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Domrose’s guitar roars with some big riffs and Reeves and Mailhouse make a tightly efficient combination, bringing a sparky drive to everything, the whole shot through with hooks you can dance to if you’ve a mind to truly let go.

Out Of is a maelstrom of rock, but the band knows how to inject some drama beyond the punch. An emotional Glimmer is grand but also manages to deftly weave light and shade throughout its length, a rolling rootsy Dillon Street displaying yet another facet as Mailhouse drums and plays harmonica.

Dogstar - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 19 June 2024
Dogstar – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

From the personal and intense to the arena-filling ’80s sound of Shards Of Rain to the howling, dark feedback and throbbing bass of Overhang, the trio manage to adapt chameleon-like to the facets catching the light, the taciturn Domrose eschewing long raps between numbers for the briefest of introductions.

Given this, it’s therefore apt that they throw in a last-minute cover of The Ramones classic I Wanna Be Sedated, inspired by a fan’s t-shirt earlier that day, creating their own blitzkrieg bop in the North London venue.

Dogstar - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 19 June 2024
Dogstar – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

The set flashes by in no time, the sledgehammer urgency of Marmalade, a muscular Breach and the sky-scraping Just Like Heaven coming in a rush that seems like an instance.

With last year’s critically acclaimed Somewhere Between The Powerlines And Palm Trees album reinvigorating their trajectory and shows as well attended and received as this, it looks like a positively vibrant resurrection for Dogstar and hopefully points to a lot more activity from them in the future, their bass player’s schedule allowing.

Dogstar - O2 Forum Kentish Town - 19 June 2024
Dogstar – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 19 June 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

There has never been much doubt that they’re a great band and the fact that so many are now joining the party has to be an acknowledgement that there is so much more here than a famous name. Dogstar rock.

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