The Dream Syndicate Plays The Days of Wine and Roses and more
The Dream Syndicate [Steve Wynn (guitar / vocals), Jason Victor (guitar), Mark Walton (bass guitar), Dennis Duck (drums)]
Lafayette, Kings Cross, London; 18 October 2022
Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse
Can it really be 40 years since The Dream Syndicate launched The Days of Wine and Roses on an unsuspecting public beholden to the false promise of the New Romantics or wanton hubris of Hair Metal? Judging by the effusive reception from this capacity ‘we were there’ house (by no means restricted to males edging towards their seventh decade) at Lafayette, those first impressions of its Velvets-meets-Stooges amalgam have not worn thin – nor has this band’s penchant for unleashing visceral alt-rock with an ease born of intuition.
Taking the stage with unstudied casualness, DS needed no warm-up as it launched a suitably blistering take on Bullet Holes – Steve Wynn duly acknowledging those present before the mock-hedonism of Out Of My Head, then a driving account of Put Some Miles On. If the band’s reformation in 2012 after a 23-year sabbatical was unexpected, the consistency of its four-album run this past decade has been heartening. The spiralling enticement of 2017’s How Did I Find Myself Here, pulsating song-set of 2019’s These Times, daring leap into the dark of 2020’s The Universe Inside and now the heady synthesis of European with American traits of just-released Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions between them confirm an outfit which has never yet repeated itself whether four, eight or (why not?) 12 albums in.
This latest offering was next up in the moody soulfulness of Damian, then an incendiary take on Burn underlined just why it remains a candidate for the greatest-ever DS song – and one to whose deep-cutting groove the engaging catchiness of Every Time You Come Around made a perfect foil. Hard To Say Goodbye exuded a pathos not without regret, and the engaging irony of Trying To Get Over rounded off a judiciously chosen trio from the new album. DS was never averse to taking risks frowned upon by its hide-bound peers, the disciplined riffing of How Did I Find Myself Here a riposte to those unable to grow old creatively while still rocking-out as instinctively as their younger selves. A ‘half of life’ classic to rank with the finest, Glide brought this first set towards its ecstatic touchdown.
A decade on, the current line-up gratifies with its stability and impresses with its flexibility – Wynn’s resourceful rhythm playing a sure incitement to Jason Victor’s combustible flights of fancy, with Mark Walton as unobtrusive or as playful as the song required, and Dennis Duck a model of proactive time keeping (no place this time for Chris Cacavas’s multi-layered keys – hopefully next tour). All of which were honed to perfection for a complete traversal of DS’s debut album that, as Frank Sinatra’s mellow tones faded out, took up most of the second set.
Its initial rimshot riveting attention, Tell Me When It’s Over compelled in its overlapping guitars and sneering vocal, as did Definitely Clean with its new-wave abrasiveness. It may have resorted to something like its initial arrangement, but the vamping riff of That’s What You Always Say assuredly took no prisoners, while Then She Remembers took on Iggy and the Asheton’s at their own game to secure at least a ‘score-draw’. Hallowe’en proved intriguing as ever with its inscrutable provocation then, after a brief pause for ‘turning over’, When You Smile cast a hypnotic spell via its glancing feedback and baleful power-chords. Wynn may no longer indulge in those verbal volleys that once articulated the latter stages of Until Lately but this fable of disillusion still packs its punch, while Too Little Too Late brought Linda Pitmon to front of stage for this insinuating take on a number once graced by Kendra Smith. Its dark humour unleashed, The Days of Wine and Roses surged forth on a twin-guitar rave of epic proportions thrown into relief only when brought to a shuddering halt.
What it showed, apart from the intrinsic excellence of DS, was the relevance of this album to the musical present – its ‘way of doing things’ formidably conveyed through the ambience of Lafayette, well on its way to becoming a mid-sized venue of choice for such gigs. The band returned for an inexorable take on Donovan’s Season of the Witch, before it tore into the inevitable curtain-closer of John Coltrane Stereo Blues with a vengeance. Is a 2024 tour featuring a 40th-anniversary rendition The Medicine Show on the cards? We can only hope.