CD Review: New York Dolls – Live At The Fillmore East

This New York City glam band is, in a weird sort of way, cut from the same cloth as Memphis power poppers Big Star. Now, just hold on. Wait a minute before you get your music geek hackles up. I am not saying they are musically similar, as Big Star’s low-key obtuse pop-rock was world’s away from The Dolls’ in-your-face glam rawk. But, outside of the music, they are very much alike. Both bands were misunderstood. Both were pioneers: Big Star of the kind of pop that would one day make bands like The Replacements and R.E.M. rich and famous. The N.Y. Dolls of the kind of arrogance and snubbing their nose at musical convention that punk would ultimately adopt. Of course, punk was influenced by garage rock and bands like the MC5, but a lot of punk bands, especially New York City ones, have noted The Dolls as a huge influence in terms of attitude.

Since the Dolls broke up in the mid-70’s, much of their audience seemed to pick up guitars and form their own bands while David Johansen and the rest of The Dolls tried to stake out solo careers for themselves. Of course, Johanson did the best of any of the Dolls, while guitarist Johnny Thunders was a cult figure who did okay for himself with his pastiche of Keith Richards’ guitar style and overall look. So while Johanson cut solo albums and morphed into Buster Poindexter (yes, that’s David Johanson. Hot, Hot, Hot indeed) and Thunders turned his imitation of Richards into a career, the rest struggled to make it. Sylvain Sylvain cut a few solo discs but those were flops and the rest pretty much vanished.

Cut to the new millennium and though some members of the band have passed, most notably Thunders, Johansen has decided to revive the band and give the Dolls one last shot at mainstream glory. And, you know what, he almost did it! Last year’s reunion album was more vital and visceral than it had a right to be and mush more than anyone ever expected, which is shown in the almost unanimous five-star review the band got. This live set continues on with the band’s rejuvenation and reclamation of their glory-filled past. As on their comeback studio set, the band sounds joyous, rejuvenated and Johansen for one is filled with the same kind of rock and roll animal power Iggy Pop brings to the stage. Johansen proves that whatever persona he wants to adopt, even his Jagger-esque Dolls frontman identity, he is more than up to the task. While The Dolls will never hit the top of the charts, the band’s comeback is one for the ages and they managed to do it in style, something most rock and roll reunions will never be able to claim. This shit rocks! Pick it up!.