Review: Manitoba NYC, Think Tank, Sunderland

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The name may have changed but the essence of the band formerly known as The Dictators is very much alive and screaming.

After years of touring with the name, legal action by a former member forced the change, but nothing can change the spirit of the band still fronted by original members, the hugely charismatic Handsome Dick Manitoba and the legendary six string slinger, Ross The Boss.

Manitoba on stage at Think Tank, Sunderland

Manitoba on stage at Think Tank, Sunderland

No matter what any lawyer may say, this IS The Dictators.

When The Dictators landed in the UK three years ago, it was their first appearance on these shores in 37 years.

Now back for their third tour since then they have more than made up for that elongated absence.

Seen as the natural link between the Garage Punk of The Stooges and MC5 and the more Rock ‘n’ Roll punk of The Ramones, whose debut album they predated with their own by a year, the Dictators were the drivers and innovators of the burgeoning New York punk scene in the mid-70s.

Their influence was felt far and wide with their classic Go Girl Crazy hailed as one of the all-time punk classics and to have them in Sunderland is a rare treat indeed, especially in the recently-opened Think Tank club upstairs in The Peacock.

They asked the question, Who Will Save Rock and Roll and Manitoba NYC answered that very question with an energetic, impassioned and hugely-enjoyable set of fired up Rock ‘n’ Roll straight from the streets of New York.

What better way to start than The Party Starts Now slamming straight into the gang vocals of Haircut and Attitude and The Next Big Thing pure, raw, in your face, Rock ‘n’ Roll energy stripped of all pretension and gimmicks.

Lead singer, Handsome Dick Manitoba is from the old school.

A proper frontman with hilarious between-song banter and razor-sharp retorts to comments from the crowd.

Life as a comedian surely beckons if he ever decides on a career change.

There’s no political commentary from these guys, it’s all about fun, whether looking back on the crazy exuberance of their youth in Weekend or espousing the triple glories of burgers, beer and ladies in Master Race Rock.

This is what Rock ‘n’ Roll is all about, carefree fun and Manitoba delivers on all counts.

New song, Supply and Demand sounds as if it could have come from their classic Go Girl Crazy opus showing that the creative embers still burn brightly.

Hopefully there’s more new stuff to come soon.

There’s something about a 1,2,3,4 count in that proceeds the ferocious punk rock whirlwind of Faster and Louder that really gets the blood pumping, especially when Manitoba is in the crowd to get help with the backing vocals.

It may have been freezing cold in Sunderland, but the fiery passion of a spirited romp through the MC5 classic, Kick Out The Jams, complete with original intro, was more than enough to banish those feelings of the coming winter into a distant thought.

l Think Tank, a spin off from the successful Newcastle site, is a live music venue that’s opened in the function room upstairs at The Peacock, formerly The Londonderry, in Sunderland city centre.