Saturday evening saw a welcome return to Wolverhampton for Star Circus but this time in a co-headlining capacity. Joining them for the evening were The Big Dirty and Takeaway Thieves. You can read the Star Circus report here.
The Big Dirty – Takeaway Thieves
Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton – 11 March 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: Ruskin Roader Photography
The Big Dirty
Admittedly, this was my first sighting of Northampton’s The Big Dirty who are a band whose reputation preceded them via their presence on social media. Describing themselves as “absolute filth, but we pull it off in style,” one already had a good idea of how this was going to pan out. Frontman ‘Jonny’ certainly cuts a striking figure, and I just couldn’t wait for him to transform into his stage persona.
Picking up exactly where Takeaway Thieves left off, they maintained the Saturday Night Fever (sic) with frenetic opener Sex Rock City which couldn’t have been written about Wolverhampton, surely? A funky beat introduced Lightweight Champion. Its matching riff makes it the perfect tune to indulge in dad dancing while nursing a pint of gnatwater and hydrating the floor. As to the subject matter, we all know one, don’t we?
Dirty Rider followed – well, they did say it was pure filth but such a compelling chorus “You’re just a love machine, I wanna……”. I will let you complete the missing lyrics. You can rest assured that Devil Woman was not that version. A turbocharged shuffle with an even more infectious hook line, could you ever imagine Cliff singing, “She’s a twisted sister, she makes me feel weak. I’m in love.”
Whiskey Pistol brought a brilliantly inspired piece of crowd participation. For those Big Dirty ‘Virgins’, I will say no more and allow you the joy of discovery if and when you see them. What I will say is that his number saw the appearance of a Walrus in the audience. Yes, you did read that right. Mind suitably boggled? Good!
The new single War Cry preceded Wham Bam (Thank You Ma’am), which has a serious piece of riffage underpinning another guaranteed addictive chorus. Continuing the bam-bam, a funky riff accompanied the rap-influenced verse of Rhythm Of My Drum, which probably had the most irresistible hook of the lot. It doesn’t get any simpler or more effective than Bang Bang.
It would appear that The Big Dirty customarily finishes on a cover. Inviting us to sing along this evening was a dynamic rendition of The Cranberries Zombie.
As one expected, Jonny was a total Master of Ceremonies throughout, interacting with the crowd in such an engaging, affable manner. Regrettably, bass player JC was recovering from the effects of tonsilitis and was unable to provide what I have been assured are his unique backing vocals. Irrespectively, his eye-catching activities were like that of a man possessed. Post-show, it was apparent that he was exhausted, so fair play for getting up and putting on a show. Meanwhile, C-Diddy and Dom, on riffs n beats, respectively, were the height of serenity as utter mayhem unfolded around them.
Their material and performance are unapologetically crude but executed with such flair, flamboyance and intelligence. With their collective tongues permanently embedded in cheeks, they radiate a huge sense of fun that one cannot avoid being left with a huge silly grin.
The kind of must-see band that is capable of bringing that Saturday Night feeling to any day of the week.
Blackpool’s Takeaway Thieves describe themselves as “unashamed rock ‘n’ roll and old school hard rock with glam swagger”, and it soon became abundantly clear why.
Arriving disgracefully early at the venue for a change, I was able to intrude at the sound check. As totally functional as this was, what struck me was the contrast when they finally fired up for real. Like someone carried out the instruction ‘Light Blue Touch Paper, Then Stand Well Clear’, Takeaway Thieves don’t so much as take to the stage but take off from it.
High-energy rock ‘n’ roll, which is faster than the speed of punk, encapsulates their approach with 13 Feathers getting the party off to a perfect start. The energy was increasingly cranked with each subsequent number. Snakes And Daggers, with its instant earworm of “Watching You, Watching Me”, reminded me of a catchphrase from a popular TV entertainment programme back in the day – showing my age here.
Such is the intense animation of a Thieves’ set, one always wondered just how well the members could avoid each other within the confines of this small stage. A few minor collisions apart, they did pretty well in this respect.
The introduction to Soothe Me saw the performance dedicated to a devoted fan who had travelled up from Oxfordshire. That aside, what a magnificently soaring solo from Ben Gibson featured here. Spider has a delightfully simplistic Alician title and a line like “The fly ain’t smiling as I raise my glass. Here’s to the good times I’ve caught you at last.” The big man would be smiling.
Gypsy’s Life had some beautiful playing from Ben during the coda, and to my ears, Lose It had arguably the most gorgeous melody of the entire evening.
In terms of pure velocity, Slippin’ N Slidin was totally punk. When informed they had more time, a hastily arranged band meeting saw them agree to play Hot Cat. One can just imagine this one being blasted out at some sleazy joint on ‘The Strip’. If you have a song called This Is Rock And Roll in your armoury, then this just has to be the one to finish on, doesn’t it?
Frontman Peter has a swagger that one imagines Rod Stewart had in his prime. Given space, Bassist Adam is a whirling dervish. He probably, more than anyone, had to rein himself in this evening. That said, he was still at the very heart of activities and attacked his instrument as if it had repeatedly insulted his mother.
Both guitarists prowled the flanks. Neil, Stage Right, threw the more shapes of the two and was the perfect foil for Adam, whereas Ben let his fingers do the talking with a plethora of luscious licks and soaring solos. And let’s not forget Max, the ‘Beast at the Back’ Akin to the timekeeper on a Roman Galleon, driving those to his front to reach ‘Ramming Speed’.
As openers go, Takeaway Thieves leave you out of breath just viewing them. They certainly set the bar for the evening.
In summary, along with Star Circus, this was yet another remarkable triple bill at one of the West Midlands’ most popular grassroots venues and all for a Pavarotti.
I will leave the final word to the Takeaway Thieves “This is Rock and Roll. It burns down to my soul. This is Rock and Roll, I love, I need, I need Rock and Roll.” Enough said.