LIVE: The Dwarves @ Rebellion, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

“We are the greatest rock and roll band in the world,” proclaims Blag Dahlia, a man who never could be accused of a lack of self-confidence. The Dwarves are back on British soil and ready to beat on our undeserving eardrums.

A sighting of Chicago’s finest shock punks in these parts is a relatively rare occurrence. They are seemingly the Loch Ness monster of the scene – as in everybody has heard of them, many have claimed to have seen them in the flesh but nobody can really pinpoint where they are right now and what they actually look like. Every now and then they resurface with a new album and appear in your town unannounced.

They are, as they say, the band that wouldn’t die.

After years of live shows that resembled mass brawls more than actual shows, The Dwarves have seemingly mellowed. The days of on-stage self-mutilation, liberal drug taking and HeWhoCannotBeNamed performing wearing nothing but a Luchador mask and a smile have been replaced with a refreshing herbal tea. The aggressive rhythm and debauched lyrics, however, still very much remain.

This current incarnation of The Dwarves have welcomed back long-time collaborator Rex Everything (that’s Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss fame, to the uninformed) to line up next to Dahlia and The Fresh Prince of Darkness. Oliveri looks incredibly content in these surroundings with a beaming grim and a chuckle at the absurd lyrics he is uttering. There are no pleasantries as they kick straight into opener ‘Anybody Out There’.

There are a number of things you can guarantee with a Dwarves show. There will be a lot of songs about getting high, evidenced with three different versions of the same song – ‘Get Up & Get High’, ‘We Only Came To Get High’ and ‘Fuck You Up and Get High’, there will be songs championing casual sex in an almost anthemic manner (‘Sluts of the USA’), and there will be a lengthy Dahlia monologue.

Despite their relatively reclusive nature, the Dwarves’ new material of ‘Devil’s Level’ and ‘Take Back The Night’ fit into the mould of the tried and tested classics. There have been moments during their career where they have challenged their listeners by dabbling in hip hop and techno on ‘The Dwarves Must Die’, but it is the almost pop punk avenue where they seem most comfortable.

Dahlia knows how to conduct his audience as this baying mob is hanging off his every word. He passes the mic to a female attendee to gleefully deliver the line of “ewwwww, you’re creepy” at the appropriate moment in ‘Everybody’s Girl’. The imposing Dahlia takes a moment from the chaos to discuss the current problems in the world.

He laments the parties that want to divide us, the policies that pollute our world, and that there is something we can do to help and it is the opening line depicted in ‘The Dwarves Are Still The Best Band Ever’. Unfortunately, his advice can’t really be placed into print for an international music publication, so we can only suggest listening to the song if you want to heed Dahlia’s words.

While the utter carnage that were Dwarves’ shows in the late-1980s and early-1990s are long gone, there is a little reminder as a pit combatant returns with a crimson face during the rather apt closer of ‘We Must Have Blood’.

The Dwarves disappear once again. When we will see them again? Who knows. All we are aware of is that greatest rock and roll band in the world never dies.