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Th' Dudes - Gig Review: Th' Dudes @ Town Hall, Auckland - 19/11/2020

21 Nov 2020 // A review by Ben Ruegg

Arriving at the Auckland Town Hall and subsequently finding parking was a lot easier than I had anticipated. The town seems very quiet at around 7:30 pm, although there is a large gathering of people around the Town Hall, an indication that something big is happening. Having seen this show, I would say 'big' is an understatement.

As my friend and I take our seats in the circle, right above the sound desk, we started chatting about how many artists had played at this venue. We both know The Beatles had played here and I confided that I had seen Linkin Park here back in 2001. "In this venue?" he asks politely, kind of taken aback by the idea that such a band would have played here. "Yeah. It was just as they started off as a band." We conversed about other musical matters until Racing took the stage at about bang at 8pm. With a voice-over introduction, the band casually walks across the stage to take their places and jump right into it.

I had always wanted to see Racing live and so with eager anticipation I paid close attention. The GA area was still growing and people were still flowing into the venue as they kicked off. Sven Pettersen's guitar work is on point. His arsenal of tasty licks and technical ability is showcased within the first few songs with the intensity growing as their set moves from track to track. Daniel Barrett and Izaak Houston are a powerful rhythm section that glues everything together. Ed Knowles vocals can switch between head voice and belting with ease, putting passion into every word he throws out to the audience. On the fourth track Motel Pool, I turn to my mate and say, "this is the track I want to hear live!" And honestly.....incredible. Tight bass grove, simple yet completely effective drums allow for the song to ebb and flow, hitting those huge moments in the chorus and then surprising me with a long epic solo at the end. One of the things I was so taken by was the way that the band explores their songs at the moment. Instead of knowing exactly how many bars this and that is, it felt like a band who loved to see what happens in the moment.
Just incredible. I highly recommend you see these guys live.

After they had finished, there was enough time for people to refresh themselves and then return to their seats for the 9 pm kick-off of Th' Dudes.

Like clockwork, the intro voice reappears and the stage goes blue building anticipation.

0Peter Urlich and his band comes running out to huge applause and kicks it off with Right First Time. The sound is immense. A guitar-driven rock group that is still sounding absolutely fantastic gets everyone into the right mood. Dave Dobbyn and Ricky Morris (stepping in for his late brother and founding member Ian Morris) take turns playing solos. The chemistry on stage between the whole band is organic and special. They look like they are having the time of their lives, which they are!

During On The Rocks, the backdrop of stacks of amps ends up becoming screens themselves. The energy has shifted into high gear and everybody around us in the circle is moving and singing along to songs they either grew up with or just understand to be embedded into the Kiwi culture.

Watching the band interact with the crowd is like being at a lecture around stage presence and showmanship. Peter leads the audience while also never stealing the show. He moves around while Dave shreds up many times on guitar in his green suit, jumps up on the drum riser, moves around along with Les White on bass, hangs around Ricky and Victoria Girling-Butcher and ultimately proves that he still has it.

Peter eventually mentions the famous acts that have played here too before jumping into You Don't Have To Go which has a more reggae vibe. Dave takes lead vocals for the first time this evening and his voice is still as powerful and emotive as always. Such a powerhouse, he is.

The crowd is jovial and lapping up the atmosphere. You can sense they are here for songs that haven't been played yet, but they will, oh yes, they will be played.

Peter then takes some time to give a tribute to Ian Morris and introduces again Ricky Morris. The band breaks out into the Tex Pistol cover of Game Of Love. It is a beautiful moment where the amp stacks are now showing images of Ian's life. The energy between the crowd and the band is awesome to watch from the circle. The song is such fun to sing that everyone gets into it, regardless of where they are sitting, everyone in that room is part of this moment celebrating Ian's legacy and life.

As we all know COVID has made a mess of the year and Peter goes into some detail about it. I was meant to have seen that earlier this year, yet here we are. It's also made known that we should be grateful for being able to share this moment considering what is happening overseas. I agree completely.

They play through Modern Choice and perform an incredible version of That Look In Your Eyes which I had never heard live before and my goodness, that might have been the stand out of the night for me. The crowd interaction is on fire and the back and forth between the audience during the breakdown is exciting to be a part of. There is a call and response thing happening which the entire crowd becomes invested in. Energy is life, and we are all feeling it here.

Then, out of nowhere, Victoria, Peter and Dave grab stalls and perform a cover of Dave's song Loyal. This was a very special moment for a lot of us and the audience singing was great. It set my decibel meter off on my watch a few times showing how loyal we all are. Pun intended.

Ricky Morris sings Nobody Else but before he does, he describes the situation of him being the engineer for Th' Dudes and learning from The University Of Life. He dedicates the song to his brother and asks the audience to get their phones out to wave around like they did lighters many moons ago. Ricky has proven himself tonight with not only his guitar skill but also with his incredible vocals. The ease at which Ricky is able to go from full voice to falsetto is humbling.

Towards the end of the set anticipation grows for the songs everyone is still waiting to hear, yet every song they have played tonight is a classic. These are tracks that have stood the test of time. Walking On Light is an absolute stomper with the band giving it everything in that chorus. The chemistry between drummer Bruce and bass player Ian has kept this whole show running like a well-oiled machine. And while Victoria is just left of Bruce playing a lot of rhythm guitar and contributing backing vocals, she has hardly ever gone unnoticed. It's in songs like this where everyone on stage is working with each that you can again appreciate how incredible Th' Dudes are.

And then it happens.

Be Mine Tonight kicks off without a flinch and the crowd goes wild. My dB meter on my watch starts buzzing again as the roaring guitars and huge wave of vocals come from the stage to the crowd which amplifies it even more before hitting my ears and my watch. This is it. Here is a song embedded in our history and many people's lives. Shortly after they finish up with Bliss which by now my watch has stopped even bothering to alert me. Yes, it's loud and rightly so. Young lads in the standing area have now removed their t-shirts and are spinning them around like it's some sort of soccer match between Arsenal and Liverpool. The crowd belts out the "ya-ya-ya" and the band lets this moment go on for a while before the band kicks it into high gear, causing the audience to mosh and the circle balcony to feel like it's floating at sea.

It's a fitting finish to a night of celebration and of having a good time. 2020 has been a hell of a year but Th' Dudes made it better tonight and everyone in attendance is better because of it.

When they return to the stage for an encore, they play Wild Thing and The Passenger. And that's it. They have left a mark on me. I am in awe of this band live. I will be making sure to see them again.

I just wished I had seen them at the Glue Pot like my mum did back when it was around. To those who had witnessed their rise, you are very lucky. But to those who have never seen them live, go now!!!!!!!!!

Photos from the Hamilton show on 14 Nov are courtesy of Ngamihi Photography
View the full gallery here


About Th' Dudes

The national success of the Th' Dudes came about through a combination of genuine talent and clever marketing and, at the height of their popularity, the group acted and demanded to be treated like stars. For a while they were, but few groups have come tumbling down as fast as the Th' Dudes, leaving behind a trail of bad debts and bad manners.

Peter Urlich, Dave Dobbyn and Ian Morris were all school friends at Sacred Heart College and on leaving school they all shared the dream of entering the world of rock n roll.

In 1974 Urlich and Morris formed a band called Chillum with Glendowie College boys Andrew Bayliss, Glen Owen and Bruce Murdoch. Having no success as a group they disbanded in 1975. Urlich, Morris and another Sacred Heart College old boy, Peter Coleman, stayed together and, after several false starts, finally convinced Dobbyn to join them. They recruited Bruce Hambling on drums and called themselves Th' Dudes. The name of the group coming from Tony Benyon's Lone Groover cartoon character in New Musical Express. The Lone Groover was a hip, masked bandido who spoke in apostrophes and called everyone "dude" way before the surf culture claimed the term.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Th' Dudes


Th' 2006 Reunion Tour: Live
Year: 2006
Type: Album
Where Are The Girls?
Year: 2001
Type: Album
Right First Time
Year: 1979
Type: Album

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