Entering Clare Cellars on a cool Thursday night, and imbibing various alcohols to loosen legs that were exhausted from having been sedentary all day, I wasn’t sure what to expect from headline act Dirty Blonde. I hadn’t Soundclouded them, and two people had given me highly contrasting opinions as to their quality. So in my head was the image of a marmitey and possibly musically incompetent six-piece that may well have been a little on the exhibitionistic side, featuring as it did at least two very good actors.
Dirty Blonde turned out to be disappointingly competent. I tried to poke holes, but it felt churlish to try to criticise a smoothly oiled band who were obviously having a lot of fun, and transmitting their obvious sense of enjoyment to an enthusiastic audience. Lead vocalist George Longworth in particular seemed to be fully aware of the band’s derivative nature, and sent it up well with a delivery that was a little tongue-in-cheek, but not so arch as to be unenjoyable.
The band – imagine Kings of Leon with a sense of humour and self-awareness – benefits from a solid if unremarkable rhythm section, with able drummer Jack Mowat-Maconochie giving the beats space while managing to furnish the songs with interesting fills. The stand-out musician is probably guitarist Mike Campbell, who is good at melody and power in equal measure, and plays with sensitivity and poise, even if he is a little too-cool-for-school. Esther Longworth seems, in the aesthetic dynamic, to share lead vocal duties with George, but this doesn’t quite translate in praxis – whether it was the mic, the acoustics, or Esther’s projection, I could hardly hear a word she was singing.
On Thursday, the group seemed split into two – bassist Guy Clark and the Longworths seemed to be enjoying themselves, while Mowat-Maconochie, Campbell and keyboardist/guitarist Ed Dakin barely raised a smile between them. If the spirits of all the band members had been high, the performance might have gone from being merely enjoyable to verging on the raucous and truly memorable. Still, I liked them enough to Soundcloud them afterwards and ‘Like’ their Facebook page; you may well do the same.