What’s in a name? When it comes to petty legal reasoning, quite a lot. Tonight, Manitoba, or The Dictators NYC in old money, descend upon Cardiff as Handsome Dick Manitoba and Ross The Boss grace the Welsh capital for the first time in some 40 odd years. This incarnation of the band, completed by Daniel Rey, Dean “The Dream” Rispler and J.P. “Thunderbolt” Patterson, have been giving the fans what they want for many a year. As I witnessed two years ago, they’re a well oiled live fighting machine and tonight promises to be another masterclass in their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Will I get sued for referring to the band as The Dictators for the remainder of the review? Lawyers can try but 15% of nothing is nothing.
After supping pints and mingling freely in Fuel’s bar area, the band take to the stage and open with Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom’s The Party Starts Now. Handsome Dick emerges with bravado and purpose; strutting like a man half his age. Not even early microphone failure is gonna phase these seasoned New York punks.
Manitoba waxes lyrical about the splendour of Cardiff Castle and the millions of photos he’s taken for Instagram before the band launch into the riff for The Next Big Thing. Y’know, the one Turbonegro unashamedly borrowed for Get It On. The Dictators may have well been the next big thing back in the day if only someone knew what the hell to do with them. Ahead of their time, much? Just a tad.
Forever with something to say, Handsome Dick takes time to vent at the current situation in America. Ross The Boss shares different views as he shakes his head at the band’s mouthpiece, but all is served in that good ol’ Dictators humour and rock ‘n’ roll bridges the gap. Cue the aptly dedicated Pussy and Money to the President of the USA.
The set is littered with blistering versions of Faster and Louder, Weekend and Master Race Rock; Manitoba urging the crowd to listen to the lyrics of the latter as he draws comparisons to the protest of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA.
The Dictators are here to give the fans what they want and it’s a correct case of Supply and Demand. With Dean “The Dream” lofting that thundering bass guitar above his head and Handsome Dick reminding us of Daniel Rey’s legendary Ramones related creditionals, this is a band that mean business and no-one is gonna stop them doing what they know and love.
Set closer Stay With Me sounds majestic as those guitar licks ring out and Handsome Dick prowls through the crowd urging everyone to sing the “my-my-my’s” in the anthemic chorus to end all anthemic choruses.
Ahead of a frantic run through Kick Out The Jams by fellow proto-punkers The MC5, the band return to the stage for the boot stomping Two Tub Man. Ross The Boss treats us to a sensational foot on the monitor wig out amongst many a guitar faced gurn. For this fanboy, hearing this track live again plasters a big fat grin on my face during my favourite Dictators lyrics: “I drink Coca-Cola for breakfast, I’ve got Jackie Onassis in my pants.”
Sadly, there’s no time for (I Live for) Cars and Girls, Avenue A, their always welcome cover of the Flamin’ Groovies’ Slow Death, or their monstrous take on The Stooges’ Search and Destroy that got the band airtime on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1977. Hey, you can’t have it all but for us diehards this set definitely hit the g-spot and more.
On reflection, the Cardiff crowd was mixed. To the back were head scratchers and frowners, possibly wondering what the hell they were witnessing. To the front were the hardcore repeating the words back at the band. Let’s just say that those who know just know. Those who get it, get it. Forever out of step? Forever out of time? Dress it up however you may but Manitoba rule OK. Ginge Knievil.