TH’ DUDES – LIVE @ CLAUDELANDS ARENA, HAMILTON
There was a definite air of excitement rippling through the crowd, a mixed sense of disbelief and elation the moment had finally arrived to see the true-blue Kiwi pioneers in the flesh.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY JACKO ANDREWS
I managed to catch the tail end of support act Racing as they put the finishing touches on what looked like a hell of a set. The band were much heavier than I expected, with a solid Led Zep vibe easily carried off by vocalist Ed Knowles’s amazing range. I would really like to see these guys for longer than two songs – added to my ‘must-see’ list, for sure.
The crowd were flowing in steadily and the last notes from Racing left them in the mood to rock. The 25-minute set change felt like hours, but finally, the house lights dropped and Th’ Dudes just walked out, plugged in and started playing, no bullshit, just blammo – let’s get this party started.
Right off the bat, charismatic frontman Peter Urluch comes out all guns blazing. With a command of the stage, one gets only from years of experience and a good dose of confidence in the music, his infectious rockstar demure dispensed of any notion the lads might be a little over the hill. No chance.
The post-covid music-starved capacity crowd at Claudelands arena reacted as if they’d never seen a concert before. The standing crowd at the pit barrier going off and the seated section at the back all up and dancing – one way or another, Hamilton was here to party.
Not a band for onstage gymnastics or flashy production, the use of video screens and lighting was well done showcasing where required historic moments, subtle clouds or 10-foot tall ‘Th Dudes’ logos was all done in good taste and balance so as not to upstage the band. The sound quality was excellent for such a large venue, particularly from the back of the room where you could hear each instrument clearly and none of the typical bassy mess you’d expect in such a cavernous venue.
The solid backline of Peter Coleman on bass and Bruce Hambling were tight if a little reserved looking on stage. Playing third tour guitarist was Victoria Girling-Butcher, filling out the acoustic and rhythm parts that were needed, and contributing beautiful vocals.
While Urlich held the stage for most of the night, both Rikki Morris and Dave Dobbyn got their chance to perform solo hits. Dobbyn’s ‘Loyal’ performed as an emotional acoustic duet rendition and an equally well-done, stripped-back version of ‘Nobody Else’ went down well.
An equally touching cover for past member Ian Morris with his quirky 80-pop track ‘Game Of Love’ was excellent, the videowalls put to good use by showing family photos and a few hilarious candid moments in the band’s career.
While the performance wasn’t total perfection, the odd mistake was covered well leaving only the tell-tale laughter on stage as only the musicians and the hard-core fan picked up on the faux pas. Overall the band were tight, either very well-rehearsed or, more likely, road-hardened with the muscle memory from performing the songs over the years.
Th’ Dudes may be rehashing a long burnt candle, perhaps, but the music felt to me, and probably the vast majority of the capacity Hamilton audience, equally contemporary now as anything on the radio these days. More than a tribute, Th’ Dudes are a class act with plenty of life still left in the ol’ girl. Judging by the crowd attendance and reaction, a serious comeback with some new recordings would be very well received all round.