Brody Dalle, live in New York

The former Distillers leader returns to the spotlight on her own terms

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The (strange and wonderful) thing about Brody Dalle is that she's as sweet as she is absolutely terrifying. She's imposing and intimidating, but she's also like an older sister who's full of compassion and worry and who's always got your back.

That much is clear from the way, after this gig is over, she stands outside the venue meeting and greeting fans long into the night. And from the way, when a fight nearly breaks out at the front of the pit three songs in, she diffuses the situation with both calm and command. “Don’t fight,” she instructs the two culprits, “otherwise you’re going to have to fight me.” At once she sounds too sweet and innocent to follow through, but you know that she would, because there’s so an underlying sense of menace on her voice. It’s present in the songs that she and her band play tonight.

It doesn’t last for long - just over an hour, no encore, the house lights coming on what feels like milliseconds after the four-piece leave the stage- but for most of it, there’s a dark, noir-ish grit to a performance that’s mostly cohesive and consistent. There are no tracks from the album she made as Spinnerette, but the setlist covers both new ground and old, unleashing songs from her recent ‘solo’ album Diploid Love, as well as material from Mrs Homme’s time in The Distillers.

It all kicks off with Rat Race from that new record, a bristling and visceral, albeit slowburning call to arms. Dalle’s voice is dominant and strong, scorched and bruised and while the similarities, as always, to Courtney Love, are apparent, hers sounds meaner, scarier, nastier. That’s something confirmed when the band follow up with Die On A Rope, from The Distillers’ final album. A blast of full-throttle, self-deprecating punk rock, it tears an immediate hole in the crowd and serves to demonstrate that, while the Distillers might have called it quits almost a decade ago, the fire inside Dalle is still raging.

In fact, a number of the songs on her solo record were written when she was still in the band, which means the mix of old and new generally flows extremely well. As such, Dismantle Me and the blistering, bloody rage of Sick Of It All generally blend into seamlessly with newer stuff like Meet The Foetus and set closer Underworld. Still, nothing can really compete with the raw outburst of Coral Fang, a fireball of angry energy and rage. The pace does drop off slightly for Don’t Mess With Me - which neither fares too well or sounds too good, and Parties For Prostitutes, which doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of its recorded counterpart, but these seem to be mere blips. On the whole, the message is clear. Brody Dalle is back, and she still means business.