The Dandy Warhols’ Courtney Taylor-Taylor is Gen. Barry McCaffrey’s worst nightmare — he blatantly equates glamour with drugs (and vice-versa) and looks good doing it. Touring in support of “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia” (Capitol), he’s having a grand time, bringing the good news from a world so decadent and fabulous that every bar is open 24 hours a day and the shooting galleries all have velvet ropes.
Shambling onstage about 15 minutes after the announced show time (a delay that could be partially blamed on the fire marshals), the Portland, Ore.-based quintet slid into the droning intro to “Be-In.” The song’s densely layered lassitude set the tone for the rest of the evening. The Dandy Warhols are basically a one-band Narco-palooza.
Every one of Taylor-Taylor’s influences has had very public dalliances with drugs. When he wants to sound country, he looks to Gram Parsons; when a slow groove is called for, it’s Television or the Smiths. Fast grooves have the slashing Bo Diddley jangle of the Stooges or the New York Dolls, and when he feels psychedelic, he derives his sound from the Beatles by way of Pink Floyd and Stone Temple Pilots. And spreading their shadows over everything are Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones. It used to be said that the Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one started a band. Given their age, the Dandy Warhols demonstrate that the same can perhaps be said about those who bought the Velvet’s reissues.
Live, the band’s sound is darker and more assertive than on its albums, which can often sound fey (although the Dandy Warhols can also camp it up live, with two topless tattooed boys twirling hula hoops on rises proved). The music straddles rush and entropy, which is a harder tightrope to walk than one might think, and occasionally the band falters.
Midway through the two-hour set, Taylor-Taylor killed whatever momentum the band had built with an overly long acoustic ballad. And the encore consisted of keyboardist Zia McCabe’s drunken ramblings, which lasted until Taylor-Taylor apologetically dragged her offstage.
For all that, there’s no escaping the fact that Taylor-Taylor has basically glommed onto decadence as a pose — one he handles with remarkable aplomb. But it has all the emotional resonance of the “this is your brain on drugs” ad campaign.