New York Dolls: Live from the Bowery
I suppose we have Morrissey to thank for this excellent CD/DVD package. Back in 2004, Moz curated Meltdown and, unsurprisingly given his love for the band, he invited the New York Dolls to play. Since reforming for that gig, the surviving Dolls (David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain) have, along with Earl Slick, Jason Hill and Brian Delaney, toured extensively and released three critically lauded ‘albums.
‘Live from the Bowery’ was recorded in New York’s Lower East Side on March 16, 2011. The show was the opening night of the Dolls’ tour to promote their album, ‘Dancing Backwards in High Heels’. I didn’t know what to expect from a Dolls live show after all these years, but I have to say I was pretty impressed. Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter) and Sylvain look pretty good for their 62 and 61 years respectively and both can certainly still rock.
The live set is made up of a good mixture of classic Dolls material and newer tracks. I was impressed by the newer tracks – they compare very favourably to material from the Dolls’ 1970s heyday. New tracks such as ‘Streetcake’, ‘I’m So Fabulous’ and ‘Cause I Sez So’ sit comfortably alongside four tracks from the Dolls’ debut album (‘Jet Boy’, ‘Looking for a Kiss’, ‘Private World’ and ‘Personality Crisis’) and other tracks picked from their long career such as ‘Who Are The Mystery Girls?’ That the balance is slightly skewed towards newer material is no bad thing – there are enough hits to keep the casual listener interested whilst exposing them to more contemporary recordings.
Performance-wise the Dolls are truly on top of their game – the band is tight and allows Sylvain to explore his edgy guitar meanderings with confidence. What is more, unlike the average clichéd punk band, the Dolls seem to be having a great time on-stage. There is no spitting or snarling of the sort that one might expect from certain UK-based punk outfits. And, also unlike a great number of pun bands, they can actually play melodic music and, most revolutionary of all, know more than three chords.
I really enjoyed the album and the DVD of the gig. The remaining Dolls have seen their share of bad times, not least with the untimely deaths of Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and bass player Arthur “Killer” Kane. Kane had been estranged from the band for twenty-nine years when he was invited to play in a Dolls reunion. He accepted and, twenty-two days after the reunion, attended hospital to receive treatment for what he believed was a case of ‘flu. Kane was diagnosed with leukemia and died within two hours. The fact that the remaining are still rocking out is the perfect tribute to Thunders, Nolan and Kane.
This is a great package both for existing fans and for newcomers to the Dolls. It offers a great performance, a great selection of material and great value for money. It could, and perhaps should, also be used to provide a salutary lesson to some of the UK’s ageing punks on how to grow older with style. The Dolls have still got it. Thank-you, Morrissey.