Fireworks

Diamond Dogs / Paradise Alley Hot

Written by Central Electronic Brain     October 15, 2019    
 
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Diamond Dogs / Paradise Alley - The Dublin Castle, London (UK) - 27 September 2019

Diamond Dogs decided one night at The Dublin Castle, Camden, wasn't quite enough. The Swedish rockers made a return to the scene in January of this year, having been on hiatus since 2015 after the death of saxophone player Magic Gunnarsson a year earlier. Not only were we treated to this duplex gig format, but there is also an album out; 'Recall Rock 'n' Roll' is a double album including thirty tracks, twenty-five old and five new. Before the grizzled Swedes took to the stage, however, London got a taste of its home-grown talent in the taste of punky Glam rockers Paradise Alley.

What's in a name, eh? Paradise Alley conjures up all the connotations you need, really; aside from the obvious - the Sylvester Stallone film - imagine broken dreams drenched in tatty lace somewhere in the liquor-licked streets of 1990s Soho and you're well on the way to the vibe of this London-based band. Lead vocalist Steve Vincent has been around the block a bit – the band formed in 1992 – but he maintained a touch of Steve Summers and Paul Stanley as he grooved and twirled his way through the hour-long set. They opened with a heavy Hanoi Rocks vibe and stayed firmly in this mash-up of Glam, Punk and Sleaze. Tracks popped with colour – namely 'Lookin' At You', 'Believe' and closer 'I Don't Care About You'. Guitars, provided by Ben Webster and Taj Sagoo, sidled distortedly through 'Three Time Loser', punching out kicks and riffs that were mostly indistinct but also a whole lot of fun. Bassist Sammy Gunns joined Webster in providing stellar layered backing vocals – a staple of the genre – particularly on 'Didn't You Used To Be Somebody', which fleshed out the sound that was rather lacking in bass at times. New single 'Class Of '92' felt dated – what did I say about names? – tinged as it was with nostalgia though there was a pleasing anthemic quality to it. Vincent dedicated a punky love song – not quite a ballad – to "anyone who's ever been in love" and there was plenty of getting down and dirty with the crowd from a band who clearly felt right at home under the red lights of the Castle. A little ropey, perhaps – and I'd love to have heard something that really stuck with me - but a whole lot of fun.

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Diamond Dogs arrived onto the stage insouciantly, to no fanfare. They are, in a word, dignified. Not in a Jay Gatsby way but in a Godfathers of Rock 'n' Roll sort of way. After twenty-seven years you might expect the fatigue to set in, but clearly the side and solo projects have kept these guys fresh. Frontman Sulo – a Dylan Moran lookalike if ever there was one – led passionately yet laconically and with a touch of the rumpled, mildly distressed look, much like the comedian himself. The Dogs started heavy and got bluesier throughout the set, all of it anchored by hard, riff-laden guitar, wandering bass lines and indefatigable piano, the layers of which were cleverly embellished or emphasised for each song. I might add that if you're in need of fashion inspiration, forget Charli Howard and just get yourself to a Diamond Dogs gig where the flares are tailored, the pinstripes are wide, and guitarist Martin Thomander can get away with wearing a gleaming, all-white jumpsuit.

Influences felt rooted in 1970s Rock but packed with Blues, even jive; the band sum it up as Hard Glam Boogie, which is a phrase that I both like and does them justice, save for the fact that here are so many layers it's hard to describe in three words. 'Valentina (Queen of Broken Hearts)' was bassy, and fat with keys from pianist Henrik 'Honk' Widen, who was so laid back he was almost horizontal (literally, too, from the way he reclined). 'Recall Rock 'n' Roll' – the title track of the new album – had a tighter, more commercial edge than the older stuff and in a way felt more restrained. The six-piece navigated the challenges of such a busy mix effortlessly, delivering tight and well-defined tunes. The older stuff was boisterous and banging; 'Hardhitter' did exactly that, retaining a seventies soul as elements of ELO trickled through in an explorative, experimental instrumental in the middle. 'Passing Through My Heart' had Sulo's whiskey voice crooning as a steam train of a ballad rolled through, powered by a deep of bass line you could feel under your skin from Stefan Bellnäs. A later ballad was lilting and emotive – the sort you can drink yourself into oblivion with, or get lost in a new city to – all syrupy and bluesy but kept alive by Honk's jazzy keys. There was an element of a heavier Quireboys about them; pulsing, plenty of panache, and dripping in attitude-soaked blues. 'On The Sunny Side Again' waltzed the band through to one final song before they departed the stage as inconspicuously as they arrived. They're back, but who knows for how long, so go get yourself a slice of this rollicking, groove-laden action.

Sophie Brownlee

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