With their album “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” out today, everything seems fair in the world of Dig Lazarus. They emerge from the darkness of a packed Dead Wax to the opening “Sermon” from the new record, with Jesse Hughes explaining that whatever you threaten him with, you’d best not suggest he enjoys himself (or words to that effect), before for 35 minutes the Nuneaton three piece set about showing everyone they are on the verge. And what they are on the verge of is something of a breakthrough. There’s a confidence about them here, and it’s the one bands always have when they – and everyone here – knows they’ve a collection of superb songs, and the skill to play them. “Road Runner”, the title track from the record, “Sky Tonight” or the recent single “Never Change”, all sound superb, they really do, but there’s more to it. Take “Joker” – probably the heaviest song in their canon – it crushes here, and “Time Froze”, the one not just the epic intent but with The Virginmarys singer Ally on co-vocals (a role he fulfils here too), these are not the work of a band that is content to play second on the bill to anyone for much longer. Whether this is a “new” band, is kind of a moot point, but listen to “Outlaw” and you can’t deny Dig Lazarus are one of the more potent underground powers right now.
On the way to the show tonight, my mate said something that seemed like a throwaway remark at the time: “They” he said, meaning The Virginmarys, “haven’t got anything out to promote have they?”
Fast forward about three hours and singer/guitarist Ally surveys the crowd and says “this feels so good, being here, in a room with friends and fans, all here for one purpose…..thank you, so, so much”
And, that, right there, is what was being promoted. The power of music, the power of this music specifically, and it seems to coarse through the whole 75 minutes tonight.
There is, of course one massive difference in the band on this go round. They are now just a two, with bass player Ross no longer with them, it is just Ally Dickaty and drummer Danny Dolan. Now, prior to the gig I might not have put the word “massive” in there, but it’s a change that almost needs overstating, because this is a very different band.
A smattering of new songs, “Meds” opens the gig, there are others, like “NYC”, “Lost Weekend” – which is dedicated to those that have struggled with the pandemic – and “Killer” with has real immediacy, but speaking as a fan of long standing (the first time I saw them was almost a decade ago) it’s the old material that takes you aback.
“Portrait Of Red” is screamed, the words “use my body like a canvas” sounds threatening now, for sure, and “Into Dust” – one of the greatest examples of small town rage ever written – explodes now, even the more melodic tunes, like “Sweet Loretta” sound raw and punk rock.
The “hit” singles, if you will, like “Just A Ride” sound new and fresh and raw is a word you keep coming back to, and you have to give a mention to Danny Dolan here, too. Frequently he stands up thrashing his kit, beating the drums, not hitting them. He’s often been effectively the barometer of the band and if he is now then that makes sense.
There’s no encores – its not that type of show, these are not ego maniacs – but the three that would be, the brilliant “Look Out For My Brother” (the only one that’s played from the most recent record they stuck out), “Off To Another Land” (the other end of the scale, given that it’s from the debut album) and the singalong (screamalong?) of “Bang Bang Bang” are the perfect window into all of that, a band that is having a rebirth after more than a decade, but with stunning material going way back.
“It feels like we are starting again, in a way,” Ally had said, “but also that we’ve got the foundations in place to give the world a kicking” – and he’s right. They sound different, and they maybe sound better.
That’s up to personal taste, but what is clear and not up for debate is this: The Virignmarys have never gone down better that I’ve seen than here tonight, and they are completely reinvigorated.