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Dirty Three - Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 12/5/2003

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 12 / 5 / 2003

Dirty Three - Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 12/5/2003


At a storm-ridden night at London Shepherd's Bush Empire, Olga Sladeckova watches the Australian instrumental trio give a show of barn storming brilliance

In February of this year the Australian trio the Dirty Three released their 7th album, 'She Has No Strings Apollo'. At the end of that month the band set off to tour Australia, the USA and Europe. After nearly three months of playing, the band finally made it on the 12th May, to London. Every second of it was going to be an experience. For me the experience starts right outside the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Thick rain makes all of us not only 'Dirty' but also soaked wet fans run straight towards the venue's wide door. I wait outside under its roof for a while waiting for Pennyblackmusic photographer, Matt Williams, to arrive. An Indian bloke, also standing under the roof, greets me with a honest smile and then starts walking towards me whispering "Marijuana...". He stops and asks me if I "smoke". I disappoint him saying "No" and to be polite ask him the same question. "Yeah" he replies, performing the same carefree smile. Then I'm forced to take about 10 flyers from fans standing around and distributing them. As I stand there, rain water still dripping off my hair, with a drug dealer on my right and bunch of kids with flyers on my left, Warren Ellis, the Dirty Three's violinist, walks out of the venue and gives me blaming look as if I was responsible for all this. Fortunately, Matt arrives just after that and we go inside the venue. Cat Power's Chan Marshall is just on the stage. Even looking from the back of the auditorium, we notice she is somehow struggling to play her guitar and to sing at the same time . When she finishes her song, she lights a cigarette and talks to the audience. Unfortunately we can't understand what she is saying, but the slightly drunken sound of her voice answers all possible forthcoming questions. When she finishes her set and staggers backstage we are told that the Dirty Three will be on the next in 20 minutes. The majority of the fans take that as a command to refuel their drinks, elbowing each other as they fight their way, shouting their orders, to the bar. The stage seems very calm with its red lighting and has smoke drifting in slow motion above it. Warren Ellis, Mike Turner and Jim White walk up on the stage, followed by Matt, the Bad Seeds bassist, to loud applause just after 9:20. Warren greets us with equal excitement wondering how long it has been since the Dirty Three last played London. Their first composition, 'Alice Wanding', comes from the new album. The audience goes quiet. Warren, holding firmly onto his violin, steps around the big stage of the Shepherd's Bush as if he is testing its size. The next song, '1000 miles', a song from their 'Horse Stories' album, is welcomed with great enthusiasm. Mike, who stands on the right side of the stage, slowly moves to the slow rhythm of the song and strums his guitar as if it is an essential part of him. Warren begins to dance, but also lets out a great big spit, unfortunately for Matt Williams, who is standing directly in front of the stage with his camera. Noticing that Matt has been 'hit', he apologises with a friendly and shy smile. In between songs I run quickly upstairs to the first level of the venue for better view. The stage looks tiny from there and the band seem half their size, while their music seems to build in its power with each second of the concert. Just before the band play another song, Warren serves us with brief explanation of its meaning. "The next song" he says standing by the microphone facing the audience "is about the light at the end of every dark tunnel, but it's very feeble and weak." The audience greet that with laughter and then absorb every moment of the song which is called 'Everything's Fucked'. The song is very slow and dark in its spirit ,but is very beautiful as well. One of my favourite Dirty Three songs, 'No Stranger Then That', comes towards the end of the set. It's slow and considerate tune at the beginning makes you really concentrate and follow it. Then the song grow ups, almost magnetising you to the stage. Warren, holding on to his violin and driving the tune, dances around again, lifting his legs up and down. Jim is beating his drums lifeless and Mike fills up the background with his guitar. The end of the song literally raises one's blood pressure and then the music goes quiet announcing its end. The fans overwhelmed by the beauty of the song thank the band with storming applause. Such a successful set can't be closed that quickly and when the Dirty Three say good-bye to their audience, the nonstop applause and screaming of the fans forces the band to come back on the stage. They seem more then happy to return to their instruments, though, and treat us with one last song. The show is now over full stop. The Dirty Three thank us for coming, returning the applause and disappear backstage with no way back. This year anyway. The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Matthew Williams

Picture Gallery:-
Dirty Three - Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 12/5/2003

Dirty Three - Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 12/5/2003

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Interview with Warren Ellis (2003)
Dirty Three - Interview with Warren Ellis
Much acclaimed Australian trio the Dirty Three recently completed a tour of Europe. Violinist and frontman chats to Olga Sladeckova about the tour and the difficult recording of the group's sixth and latest album, 'She Has No Strings Apollo'

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