New York Dolls at the Bowery Ballroom: Still fabulous after 40 years
While most of the music-loving world has descended upon the indie music mecca of SXSW in Austin, Tx., some of us poor souls are stuck tooling around in boring ole New York. What’s there to do in this city, anyway?
The answer to that was easy last night: see the New York Dolls. Even 38 years after their debut — which is still the most convincing argument that rock is best played loud, fast and in drag — the New York Dolls own the stage like they invented modern rock. Which isn’t that far from the truth anyway.
At this point, of course, the band is without deceased classic members Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, Billy Murcia and Arthur Kane (“Killer” Kane passed away not long after their reunion in 2004). But punk survivors Sylvain Sylvain and lead vocalist David Johansen are still with us, and they’re more than capable of spitting out their snarly 70s classics alongside the hummable tunes from their recently-released record Dancing Backward in High Heels.
The first words of the show — the immortal “when I say I’m in love you best believe I’m in LOVE L-U-V” — sent a rush of giddy nostalgia through the crowd of aging punks, hipsters and already-wasted St. Patrick’s Day celebrants. (Speaking of the holiday, Johansen treated us to a full-throated version of the traditional Irish “Mother Machree.”)
Even while peering out from behind a tinted pair of sunglasses that might look more at home on Yoko Ono and reading his lyrics from a music stand, David Johansen remains an impossibly compelling frontman. Just like Mike Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, he always projects the aura of “wherever [he is], that’s THE place to be.”
And when the band recklessly stormed though “Trash,” jammed on a shuffling medley of Bo Diddley songs and took some time to scream about being “so fabulous it’s ridiculous,” it was hard to imagine there was a better place to be in the entire city. You can check out some shaky fan footage of “Personality Crisis” here.