Handsome Dick Flexes in Long Beach: In May of this year, Brit punk icons the Damned performed at the Belasco, and the Dictators opened for them. However, quite a few people who were at that show were surprised when the New York proto-punks took to the stage and Handsome Dick Manitoba wasn’t fronting them.
This writer spoke to the Dictators’ Andy Shernoff in 2021 for sister paper the Village Voice, and he said that, “We want to make music and we need a healthy, creative environment. You inject Manitoba into that, and it changes the dynamics in a very, very bad way.”
Alright, far be it from us to tell people who they should and shouldn’t get along with. And to be fair, the show with the Damned wasn’t horrible. It was actually a very professional, polished version of what the Dictators was. But after seeing Handsome Dick Manitoba perform solo in Long Beach on Saturday night, we’re reminded of the fact that the Dictators shouldn’t be polished.
Part of the glory of the original band was that Shernoff was and is a fucking masterful songwriter. He can switch between power-pop and glitter-stomp and punk-tude seamlessly. But by god, the yin to that yang was always the no bullshit, super-funny, charismatic frontman Handsome Dick. The man is a showman with a punchy voice and the ability to lovingly insult a crowd. He’s like Rodney Dangerfield and Dee Snider verbally sparring inside the same mind before a WWE bout. That’s no bad thing.
Manitoba addresses his being kicked out of the Dictators / not being included in the reunion (delete as applicable) in Long Beach, but he doesn’t come across as bitter. Rather, he takes the opportunity to remind us all that sometimes, when bad things happen, good things can be just around the corner. Handsome Dick, with the help of bassist Michael Butler (Exodus, Jetboy), has assembled a killer band. Manitoba and Butler are joined by drummer Andy Galeon (Death Angel) and guitarists Craig Behrhorst (Ruffians, Two Bit Thief) and Alex Kane (AntiProduct, Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, Life Sex & Death, Enuff Z’Nuff, etc, etc).
There were moments on Saturday when Manitoba, between vocal bursts, could only stand and admire his musicians. He looked like he could barely believe his luck, and he actually said that this is the best band he’s ever played with (despite the fact that, bless his soul, he had to read their names off of a piece of paper). Somehow, some way, Manitoba has struck gold.
Mind you, so have the band members. Rarely will they get to perform with a frontman who was so fundamental in the creation of punk rock, crossing the divide between glam and punk. The joints might be stiff nowadays, but the fire is still there.
All of which is apparent throughout the set — heavy on the Dictators tunes with a couple by Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom (the opening “New York, New York” and the following “The Party Starts Now”) and a couple of covers.
Manitoba entered the stage to the theme from Godfather, wearing a boxer’s gown and shades, and ready to go. Those riotous Wild Kingdom songs were an inspired way to start the show, though Dictators classics such as “Baby Let’s Twist,” “Stay With Me” and “Who Will Save Rock n’ Roll” were a joy to hear in this environment.
“The Next Big Thing” and “Two Tub Man” from the perfect Go Girl Crazy debut were predictable highlights, while the closing “Kick Out the Jams” is a reminder that Manitoba fronted the reformed MC5 (then dubbed DKT/MC5) for a while.
Throughout it all, Manitoba took every opportunity to tell stories and occasionally mess with the crowd. He had us chant a message for his son, a marine, which he recorded on his phone. He mocked the Dodgers’ World Series win, and made seemingly random comments about “nobody goes to jail anymore.” The Long Beach crowd loved him for it.
‘Cos hey, Manitoba’s gonna Manitoba.
Editor’s note: The disclaimer below refers to advertising posts and does not apply to this or any other editorial stories. LA Weekly editorial does not and will not sell content.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.