Police Dog Hogan – The Met, Bury – 3rd February 2022
A regular item on our pages of late, Police Dog Hogan took the stage to a ripple of applause and a few cheers from the diminished Bury Met audience which fortunately and deservedly got more vociferous later in the evening. This didn’t do much to quell the band’s nerves as this was there first live outing for a while and the first night of their winter/spring tour supporting the Overground album.
However, they were soon into their stride with the rousing favourite Hold On, Eddie Bishop as the jumping, jigging fiddler helping to stir up the atmosphere. The seated audience may have been extremely less responsive than the huge lively crowd which greeted PDH the last time I saw them (Cropredy 2018) but this hardworking band slowly got them onside.
After only a few numbers leader James Studholme announced what were in his words: “the seven most feared words to an audience – This is one from our new album.” Westward Ho was the first of a few tracks from the excellent latest album, Overground that contributed to an effervescent, sparkling evening . The song is dedicated to tripping through the West Country, an area clearly close to the group’s heart, as songs on the new album played through the evening following a West country theme. The US may have Route 66 and Europe the Autobahn with music dedicated to them but none can compare to the A303, the scenic gateway to Devon!!!
The country gospel style song When will I Be Changed provided some respite in pace as banjo player Tim Dowling swapped to acoustic guitar, interestingly strapped on horizontally to play some great slide acoustic guitar licks. Before the pace was ramped up again PDH showed their strong respect for the audience with some joking patter, describing the ‘seasoned’ (in age) audience as perhaps more ‘marinated’ . Tim recognized they were playing in the political hotbed of politics after recent defection events. He noted also that the 150 majority received at the last election were probably all in the room. Very amusing!!
As the beat was upped rapidly two members of the audience were eventually stimulated into dancing in the aisles. The uplifting music should have had more romping earlier. I would have joined them but like the skeleton at the party…I had nobody to dance with ( Sorry!!). This number showed how this 7 piece band are so tightly knit, the instrumentation blended perfectly throughout the night and is always well balanced without any single instrument dominating their music when playing together. Throughout the evening all members got their solo opportunity to shine and is was particularly pleasing to see bass player Don Bowen playing some intricate bass solo runs.
Another ‘TIOFONA’ song came next with a sombre version of Here Comes Crow after the amusing anecdotal story of the inspiration to the song from James. The next song brought a rousing cheer from a small section of the audience as apparently there was someone in the audience called Kathleen O’Hare. Again another TIOFONA moment with Emily Norris’ expert trumpet solo featuring.
James is adept at spinning a tall tale, with Tim the butt of the unlikely surreal tale of his traumatic childhood and troubled wayward mother, the result of which was the mainly instrumental bluegrass La Moutard de Dijon with harmonious French lyrics.
During the interval, the joy of the return of live music came through loud and clear as I chatted to Roger and Christine Ball who have a family connection with local lad drummer Alistair Hamer, the latest addition to PDH. An appropriate time to mention how lucky the locals are to have the opportunity to see quality acts at the wonderful Bury Met which is establishing itself as a major music venue. It was great to have an opportunity to chat to some of the band members who have been very welcome contributors to At The Barrier recently. Some artists are still shielding themselves from their audience but PDH are happy to mix and sign merchandise.
A rather solemn opening to the second set with romantic ballad I Need You was followed by a mournful Celtic instrumental intro with fiddle and accordion, which developed into a lively jig. Some full on bluegrass followed as a special bluegrass mic was brought on centre stage. As the band precisely arranged themselves using carefully measured tapes accordion and keyboard player, Shahen Galichian was amusingly exiled offstage but returned to join fiddle and banjo in super three part harmony .
Many artists have a particular song which resonated with all their fans and PDH are no exception as the ‘song which has been good to us’ was announced…..Shitty White Wine finally ramping up the audience participation level. Only a few miles from the venue infamous for the Dylan ‘Judas’ moment we witnessed our own, banjo being replaced by electric black Fender to play some serious country . Although the country in question was Spain we were treated to some nifty guitar solos on yet another TIAFONA Barcelona.
PDH versatility came out with the traddy jazzy number Slingshot which included more song-a-long audience participation. After a plaintive celtic opening the fluctuating tempo encouraged the dancers out again who despite being seasoned jiggers skipped along to the end and through the rousing West Country Boy. There was still time to calmly complete the evening another TIOFONA moment with beautiful harmonies from the whole ensemble on Let Me Rest My Eyes.
This was one joyful, energy-filled, uplifting evening and left me searching for the nearest close venue where Police Dog Hogan is next appearing (probably Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room on 2nd April…Ed). When there was much focus from new material blending in with popular familiar material and both going down equally well this must have been a very satisfying evening to kick start a tour for the band and they deserved every accolade they received.
You can read some contributions from several of the band on our Why I Love pages here