For anyone who loves '70s underground music, rock icon and punk pioneer David Johansen's decision to revive the New York Dolls couldn't have been better news. The Dolls were some of the first glam rockers ever to grace the music scene, rising to fame alongside The Stooges' Iggy Pop and David Bowie's alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. Johansen's clothing, manner and music inspired such musicians as Mick Jones from The Clash and Tony James of Generation X.
Johansen recently took his revival of the Dolls on an international tour and although he and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain are the only original member to take the stage, the 58-year-old sultan of rock can still show his fans a good time.
The Dolls played at The Big Easy last Thursday, and as a long-time fan and admitted skeptic of the revival, I can honestly say it was one of the most entertaining shows I've been to recently.
Johansen still parades around the stage like a sexed-up 20-year-old, shaking his pelvis and thrusting his hips at the crowd as though he doesn't know or doesn't care that the potbelly attached to his abdomen is noticeable. He still wears tight black pants and bejeweled bracelets and keeps his hair long. He commanded the crowd with his microphone clenched close to his mouth in a fashion similar to Mick Jagger's. Or maybe it's the other way around. In fact, the New York Dolls' Web site claims that "Mick Jagger learned everything he knows from David Johansen," and watching Johansen swagger about the stage, that's easy to believe.
My only disappointment in the evening's events were the kids who decided that the New York Dolls made appropriate moshing music. This kind of behavior is acceptable and even expected at certain shows, say GWAR for example, but who in their right mind moshes at a glam rock show? My advice is this: don't just come to the show because you think the New York Dolls are punk; actually listen to the music.
The energy of the rest of the band proved that though they seem to love what they do, they aren't original members. One crowd member commented, "It's kind of sad that the biggest accomplishment these guys can ever say they made was being a stand-in for a New York Dolls member."
The entire show seemed like a nostalgic journey for the band. Watching Johansen wiggle his hips around the stage and grin at the large enthusiastic crowd was like witnessing a person emerge from self-imposed solitary confinement. He looked completely in the moment and ecstatic to still be able to elicit such a responsive crowd.