The New York Dolls are, in my not-so-humble opinion, one of the greatest rock'n'roll bands of all time.
There- that's a simple enough statement don't you think? But it's one that many would disagree with; maybe only The Sex Pistols have polarised opinion as much as The Dolls, and for similar reasons- they can't sing or play, it's all form and no substance, the clothes are more important than the music etc etc. It's all nonsense of course, but I would say that, wouldn't I? Then again, maybe I wouldn't- after all I was too young to encounter them during their '70's incarnation, and when virtually every punk band name-dropped them as a major influence I only knew their name vaguely, and for all the wrong reasons ('weren't they the band that couldn't sing or play?') especially considering that I'd never heard a note by them. The first Dolls-related music that I remember hearing was 'Chinese Rocks' by Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers as well as their classic 'L.A.M.F.' album, both of which went a long way towards making me realise what all the fuss was about. But- and it's quite a big but- you still couldn't hear The New York Dolls; both of their albums had been deleted (adding to their legendary status in the process) and the band had split amid no little acrimony. I did see Thunders and Nolan with The Heartbreakers (who were tremendous) but had to wait until October 2006 to see a New York Dolls show (click here to see what I thought of it) by which time there were sadly only 2 original members left alive.
I saw them again last night, at The 100 Club in London. Support came from Spizzenergi whose half hour set warmed up proceedings nicely, with 'Soldier Soldier' sounding rather better than I remember it and the inevitable 'Where's Captain Kirk?' inciting mass audience hysteria. But the evening was all about The Dolls- opening with a chaotic 'Babylon' ('we don't normally let people see our soundcheck') they played the title track of their new album 'Cause I Sez So' followed by 'We're All In Love' from 2006's 'One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This', both of which sound as good as anything from their original reign of terror- or maybe the older material still sounds comtemporary? Perhaps we have that oddest of situations, a reformed band who are now producing songs that match their back catalogue? Either way they sounded terrific, the very definition of rock'n'roll attitude with David Johansen resplendent in jewellery and jeans and Sylvain Sylvain tossing plectrums in the air (mostly catching them in time for the next chord!) and bantering with audience members only inches in front of him. Drummer Brian Delaney and bassist Sami Yaffa kept the beast (mostly) on the rails while Steve Conte careered his way from riff to solo and back again in a manner that the late great Mr. Thunders would have been proud of. And talking of the man himself, Sylvain's emotional version of 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory' had more than a few people fighting back the tears... a blazing 'Jet boy' finished the set, the final encore of 'Personality Crisis' bombed out the last few pockets of resistance, and the lights came up to reveal an audience more shell-shocked than anything else.
An amazing performance, and an unforgettable evening. Gig of the year so far, and it'll take some beating.
Rock'n'roll?- that's all folks...