The opening night of Dirty Pretty Things' winter tour offensive before a fired-up Saturday-night student audience showed a band in the ascendant. Young, loud and stylish fans jostled and spread the joy of "beer shampoos" throughout the crowd. It certainly got sticky at times, but it was all good-natured enough - a celebration of a real rock'n'roll phoenix, born again from the ashes of a potential, some might say ongoing, tragedy.
Alongside the debonair frontman Carl Barat, Dirty Pretty Things feature the pulverising drummer Gary Powell and staccato guitar king Anthony Rossomando, both members of Carl's infamous previous band The Libertines. Didz Hammond, ex-Cooper Temple Clause, takes the role of Barat's composing and onstage sparring partner that was once filled by Pete Doherty.
For sheer "Last Gang in Town" bravura, learnt at the feet of Libertines/Dirty Pretty Things producer and former Clash guitarist Mick Jones, the raffish flourish of opener "Wondering" takes some beating. The crowd sang it back to Barat word for word, arms punched the air, and several bodies cartwheeled over the heads of others towards the stage.
The movement, defiance and swagger in the songs were reflected in the band's hyperactive presentation. Barat has adopted the man-on-a-mission posture that defines the best of one of his role models, Paul Weller. It's a look that suits and serves him well - though they specialise in militaristic staccato riffs, Dirty Pretty Things cover a vibrant and varied musical spectrum.
A definite peak was reached on "Chinese Dogs", a single B-side that is one of the true classics in the DPT canon. Triple-time rock'n'roll, laced with a dark hint of dub and urgent unhinged harmonies, hammered home Barat's openhearted bawl, "What does it take for me to be your man? /What does it take to make you to understand?".
The audience, needless to say, were fit to rip the roof off and it was only four songs into the set. The reaction became even more frenzied with "Deadwood", its western gunfighter allusion perfectly sealing the picture of DPT as the gang who fought back - and won.
The band's relationship with the audience was key, the barracking between stage and floor on "You Fucking Love It" a truly joyful exchange of pure energy. Maybe it was unintentional, the way that the opening riff from "Good Ole Days", the evening's second Libertines tune, crossbred two rock'n'roll riffs for the ages (the stuttering chords of "Louie Louie" and Nirvana's "Teen Spirit"). But when there's so much substance to back it up, such happy coincidences tend to grow organically out of a band's elegant posturing.
"Gin and Milk", for instance, was whip smart, belting out high-speed Clash-style belligerence - preaching a gospel of hedonism and peace over hate and war. The spirit of Jones and Strummer was alive.
For "In the City", the Jam classic that Barat recently persuaded Weller to perform with him, the DPT singer was stripped to his bare, hairless chest. Singing without his guitar, his performance was keenly focused, delivering the generation-crossing Mod anthem as a work of prophecy.
The end came two songs later, more peaks of pandemonium were scaled and then Barat dived off the stage - straight into the arms of a gleefully waiting audience. Wonderful.
Touring to 16 December ( www.dirtyprettythingsband.com)Reuse content