Crash Test Dummies @ Dingwalls

The Crash Test Dummies concert was held at Dingwalls which is in the middle of the Lock Markets at Camden, London. The concert doors were to open at 7:30pm, but the girl at the door told us that the sound check was taking longer than usual so things would be a bit late. CTD themselves were due to come on at 9:00pm with support starting around 8:00pm. I had arrived shortly after 6:00pm, coming straight from work, and spent the time between wandering around the empty markets and having a drink at the bar above Dingwalls.

During my wait (for the doors to open and for Keryn with the tickets) I saw some guys wandering around taking photos, turns out the subject was the CTD drummer, Mitch Dorge. I watched them for a while as they wandered around before they disappeared through a gate. Later while waiting by the Dingwalls door Brad Roberts (CTD front man) comes out the door, has a look around and then runs off to a waiting car further down the alley and leaves. This was disconcerting given that it was shortly after 7:00pm, he turned up later on stage though so that was OK.

Keryn arrived and we waited with a slowly growing crowd until they opened the doors just before 8:00pm. Dingwalls is a small venue with a maximum capacity of 550, so I was expecting something reasonably small. The stage was at the far end from the door and to get down to it we had to walk down two sets of stairs (about three stairs each, not large). In all there were three levels, each having a rail and a set of stairs that dropped about 1 metre, to give a small grandstand feel to the whole place. On the left and right there is more standing room on a level with the top of the three main standing areas. There was a bar on the top level facing the door.

The crowd slowly came in but there was never a feeling of being packed in, everyone giving each other a bit of space. I guess by the time CTD came on the place would have been three quarters full. Drinks were expensive (to be expected I suppose), Keryn got a glass of lemonade that cost £2.50, the same as my Guinness had cost be earlier!

The support act started around 8:30pm, the band was called Madaline and they weren’t bad at all. The main problem was the singers voice (Irish accent, somewhat reminiscent of Dolores from the Cranberries) sounded somewhat overworked – she had plenty of power in the low ranges but seemed to fade away for the higher stuff. The songs they sang were alright, the first couple even catchy. There was a short break while the singer and a cellist set up and they did a couple of acoustic songs that weren’t that good, mainly because Madaline’s voice wasn’t up to it – she had to break in the first song for a drink of water. I guess they’ve just been performing too much recently and her voice isn’t coping (Matilda did say something to that effect at one point). Madaline closed with a couple of rocking numbers and then it was the roadies on stage again clearing out and setting up for the main event.

CTD turned up on stage around 9:30pm, they just calmly walked on stage and took positions and as Brad walked past the mic he turned towards us and they let rip with title track from the Give Yourself a Hand album. The sound quality compared to the opening act was brilliant, nice and clear. The sound changed as the concert progressed and I actually thought it was more muddled by the end with Brad’s voice being less prominent on the louder numbers. The first song was a stonker, definitely getting everyone’s attention.

Taken by Søren Pertou from an October 2001 concert in Aarhus
Taken by Søren Pertou from an October 2001 concert in Aarhus

The rest of the concert was a mix of songs from all four albums, The Superman Song (acoustic with Brad, Stuart and Dan all up the front), Sittin’ on a Tree Stump and I want to Par-tay! being particular highlights. The lead guitarist (Stuart ) was amazing all night, the frequent instrument only parts to songs often soared along to his amazing playing. The keyboardist/singer Christine was good for most of the night and she seemed to be enjoying herself but she was let down by the sound mix for her lead performance on Peter Pumkinhead (the XTC cover from a few years ago). Mitch was great, I swear his arms were a blur on some of the faster numbers, especially near the end. Dan, bass player and Brad’s brother was content to stay at the back for most of the show, only coming forward and really shining on a few tracks.

Brad was chatty all through the show, explaining before a couple of songs off the new record that he has a soft spot for country music and this led to the country sound of the new album. For this he was unrepentant, stating I Don’t Care in You Don’t Mind just as he started the track of the same name. When he came out for the encore he started talking about how he likes to play a few cover songs now and then, songs that have influenced him over the years as he grew up. He was just starting to go further with this when someone shouted out “Alice Cooper!”. Brad stopped his story said “How the f*ck did you know that?” to much laughter and then played 18, by Alice Cooper.

There were two other memorable moments. Brad was singing the second encore song, Androgynous, when he bumped the mic and it fell out of its stand onto the floor. Brad stopped mid song, looked down with a look of utter surprise and said “That’s never happened to me before, in 12 years of playing” as everyone laughed. He said a few more things as the roadies put the mic back and then continued where he had left. The mic came out again for the last song of the night but Brad recovered much quicker this time. Nearer the end of the show a few people were taking photos and one guy who had been partaking of a large amount of liquid courage pushed up to the stage, sat on the edge and took a photo of Brad from down by his mic stand. He then obviously decided he could do better than that and got up on the stage and stood next to Brad, lining up an extreme close up. Brad took this all in his stride and kept playing and singing, but he turned and faced the camera and put on a fixed smile while the guy took the shot. It was a magic moment and everyone was in awe of this guys tenacity and how well Brad took it. Brad then gave the guy a friendly shove and kept on playing, a huge smile on both of their faces.

The whole show was great, definitely up there with the best I’ve seen (Barenaked Ladies is still top though). After the show we left fairly quickly, not staying around to see if they all came out again. I think the small venue brought out the best in everyone, if you ever get the chance I definitely recommend seeing CTD in concert.

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One thought on “Crash Test Dummies @ Dingwalls

  1. I was there, it was the night before my 17th Birthday and my friends and I had come down on a coach from Birmingham. We missed our coach home so my friend’s dad had to come and get us from London in the middle of the night (woops!).

    They’re one of my favourite bands of all time and that gig was the best gig I’ve ever been to (also seen BNL but CTD are special to me!). I ended up with Keyboard player Christine’s towel… wish I had a bootleg recording of that show… Thanks for writing this, it brought back memories. Did you know Ben Darvill was also there just not playing?

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