NEW YORK DOLLS

New York Dolls

NEW YORK DOLLS THE FORUM, LONDON 22/10/06

This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen. Groups of enormously important and iconic stature can come back with diginity and cred intact, but it helps if they display a healthy smattering of original members. The Stooges did it last year with only a new bass-player who wasn't part of the first lineup. Even then it's only the old classics that really get the big cheer. The New York Dolls circa 2006 have broken all these rules with the reckless and natural abandon with which they started trends and galvanised lives over 30 years ago. It was bad enough when they returned for what was just going to be a one-off at Morrissey's Meltdown in 2004. Many didn't believe the Dolls could cut it in these different times and without Johnny Thunders but the gigs went so well they gradually became a going concern, despite the unimaginably sad death of Arthur Kane. Then came the album,'One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This'. My record of the year. Attitude, attack and invention. Uncannily like before, it seems to have gone over the heads of the mass CD-buying public.

The added bonus is that plant this bunch on a stage and they go off like a runaway train. They don't so much trot out the hits and try and sneak in a few of the new songs but hit the stage like a salivating rock 'n' roll hell-beast and demolish everything in their path. Correspondingly, the crowd goes apeshit and, amazingly, the great new songs go down as well as the milestones. Like i said, this shouldn't be happening. Tellingly, the new Dolls expelled sackfulls more energy, attitude and trashed-out class than hopeful support act Towers Of London, who must have reminded Syl and David of the legions of dodgy Dolls-inspired hair-metal wannabes who spun out of LA in the 80s. Their rhythm section of bassist Sami Yaffa and drummer Brian Delaney is a ton of bricks with funk and drive sometimes bordering steering the band into deliriously out-of-control hellbeast territory. Sylvain is allover the place, shouting, pointing and occasionally delivering a laidback New York monologue before the next onslaught.

David Johansen was suffering throat problems which partly explains why he conducted the berserk throng through some of the choruses. The other reason for that was the football stadium type singalong scenario which greeted everything from 'Lookin' For A Kiss' to 'We're All In Love'.

After the DJ set that - literally - shoulda been me ['Waterloo Sunset', the quintessential London song, for the NEW YORK Dolls?] the Dolls suddenly upped the energy level a million notches by running on and straight into a boisterous 'Lookin' For A Kiss'. David Johansen, impossibly tall and thin in shades, miming the jacking up, Sylvain cavorting under his big black Gretsch, Steve Conte looking a lot more settled in now he's beaten off the Thunders stand-in misgivings, Sami Yaffa churning like a cement-mixer on heat and Brian Delaney pummelling his kit with cool deadliness. [Later Johansen would introduce him, quite rightly, as 'The Rock!'].

Then it's 'Puss 'N' Boots' and 'We're All In Love', the first off the new album and it's good to hear the crowd, who by now are going beer-spraying bananas, singing too. They're encouraged by David, who's been suffering throat problems for the whole European tour. This band positively explodes with rampant energy which even has to be reined in at times. 'They say the New York Dolls inspired a lot of bands, well here's a song by someone who inspired the New York Dolls - Janis Joplin!" announces Johansen before a heaving treatment of 'Piece Of My Heart' done in the style of Big Brother & the Holding Company off 'Cheap Thrills'.

I love the way the new songs fit right in. 'Fishnets And Cigarettes', 'Plenty Of Music', 'Dancing On The Lip Of A Volcano', Conte's breakneck 'Punishing World' are all strong and vibrant, while 'Gimme Love And Turn On The Light shook the plaster off the ceiling while I was shaking the lizard. The expected not-a-dry-eye moments came when Sylvain sang 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory' for Johnny [which glided perfectly into 'Lonely Planet Boy'] and David dedicated 'Private World' to 'Killer' Kane, who'd still been with the group the last time they'd played a major London stage.

Then it was the home stretch after a wild 'Dance Like A Monkey'. Bo Diddley's 'Pills' kicked down what was left of the door with psychotic glee before Sylvain came out with a spaced spoken introduction to a 'Trash' delivered like a double-speed demolition derby. It was absolutely glorious but then came a stretched out 'Jet Boy' which used the 'Midnight Rambler'-style middle eight as a racing locomotive for the guitars to jump. The end rush went on forever and by now the whole theatre was in leaping, shouting turmoil. The encores were 'Personality Crisis' and 'Gotta Get Away From Tommy'. There was feedback, chaos and rock 'n' roll reduced to its primeval exposed nerve. Just like the New York Dolls when they first started. Just like they are now.

Kris Needs – tMx 27 – 10/06
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