New York Dolls
Live at the Fillmore East: December 28 & 29, 2007
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2008, Volume 15, #5
Written by John Metzger
Tue May 6, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
Perhaps it is because New York Dolls felt indebted to Morrissey after he insisted that the band reunite to perform at the Meltdown Festival in 2004. Perhaps it is because One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This Now, the ensemble’s recently issued (and long overdue) third album, received such widespread critical acclaim, thus providing a further boost to its confidence. Or, perhaps it is because the members of New York Dolls no longer are wasted out of their gourds when they take the stage or enter a recording studio. Whatever the reason and against all odds, there is no way of mistaking the fact that the legendary glam-punk outfit is back in business.
Live at the Fillmore East, New York Dolls’ latest concert set, was culled from a pair of year-end performances that were held in 2007, and it provides firm evidence that the group remains capable of raising quite a ruckus. For certain, New York Dolls’ sobriety has tempered its feverishly chaotic approach, but in this case, the professionalism that has crept into the ensemble’s delivery actually is a good thing. Despite the fact that three members of the outfit’s classic line-up have slipped quietly into the twilight — guitarist Johnny Thunders overdosed in 1991, drummer Jerry Nolan suffered a stroke in 1992, and Arthur "Killer" Kane succumbed to leukemia a month after the band’s appearance at the Meltdown Festival — their replacements (Steve Conte, Brian Delaney, and Sam Yaffa, respectively) do a terrific job of capturing the swaggering fury unleashed by the quintet that issued its self-titled debut in 1973.
"C’mon boys," shouts front man David Johansen prior to the onslaught of Babylon, the opening track on Live at the Fillmore East. Conte and Sylvain Sylvain then proceed to toss violent blues riffs against the tune’s clattering, hard-driving, rhythmic stampede, thus setting the tone for the remainder of the performance. Over the course of the program, the guitars whirr and buzz as the group swerves from the punk rock fury of Trash to the raging intensity of Puss ’n‘ Boots. Fully re-energized, New York Dolls seamlessly situates new cuts, such as Dance Like a Monkey, alongside its vintage material, and as always, the band playfully snatches whatever it needs to bring its songs to life. Touches of Chuck Berry’s work, for example, emerge from the mayhem of Jet Boy’s central jam, while The Beatles’ Please Please Me improbably is tucked into Rainbow Store.
Considering the resurgence of garage rock in recent years, it is all too easy to be skeptical about Johansen’s motivations for reforming New York Dolls. After all, he has spent several decades acting rather indifferently about the group’s history. Of course, New York Dolls certainly wouldn’t be the first outfit to take advantage of a market that had come full circle. Regardless, the aggressiveness of Live at the Fillmore East puts all fears to rest. This is the sound of a band that is determined to celebrate its history without bowing down to it.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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