Live: Rude & the Rekkless, We Are the Fury, New York Dolls

February 12, 2008, Rams Head Live, Baltimore, Maryland

I wasn’t sure what to expect of the audience at a New York Dolls show in 2008. Would it be mostly an older crowd who’d known the Dolls from their earliest days? A group of thirty-somethings who know the them as the influence on bands they liked say twenty years ago? How about the young hipster crowd looking to show how much they know about the roots of punk? As it turned out, it was all of that and more. This show took “all ages” to heart, running from kids whose parents probably dropped them off to people older than the Dolls themselves. It was a little light due to bad weather, but all were seemingly quite happy to catch the Dolls kick off their 2008 tour. The fans really ran the spectrum from punk to goth to glam to I’m-not-worried-about-dressing-up types. Over the last 35 years, the Dolls have managed to pick up a pretty good variety of fans.

The opening act was local Baltimore band Rude & the Reckless, made up of former and current members of several local punk outfits. The played their gritty journeyman punk with conviction, including a good cover of the Vibrators’ “Baby, Baby, Baby.” While their set was straightforward and fun, they did push their song “TV Addict” nearly to the edge before reining it back in. It was old school punk played by a group of guys that had been around awhile yet happened to have a ton of youthful energy. They may not have broken down barriers, but they rolled through their short set and got a fairly lackluster crowd excited.

Toledo, Ohio’s We Are the Fury followed. Their brand of 70s glam-influenced rock was a good fit for the Dolls. They set high expectations when they came on stage to the music from A Clockwork Orange, but delivered. They tapped into Ziggy-era Bowie and Sweet primarily and like those artists, they weren’t afraid of pop music, instead wearing it on their sleeves. With piano parts so flamboyant Elton John would be proud and a frontman who could keep up with Rod Stewart in his prime (even though his voice was far cleaner along the lines of Sweet’s Brian Connolly), they were equally comfortable with slow boogie ballads and showtune-turned-rocker pop. Despite multiple unheeded attempts to engage the audience (“move up, this is a rock and roll show” and “there’s no mosh pit, you don’t have to be afraid of the music”), We Are the Fury was undeterred in the effort to put on an outstanding rock show. Surely they must have found the crowd’s lukewarm response to be frustrating, but that frustration never showed beyond the puzzled look on singer Jeremy Lublin’s face before diving back into the enraptured fit of raw, androgynous sexuality that was his performance. Too bad for the audience, because We Are the Fury was outstanding.

Unlike so many people, I was unimpressed with One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. To me, the album was made by old men trying to sound young. The live show, on the other hand, wasn’t like that at all. The only thing that indicated David Johansen’s age was the little bit of pudgy belly that stuck out between his tight bell-bottoms and pink rhinestone studded shirt. Otherwise, he had all the engaging energy that he must’ve burst onto the scene with 35 years ago. Sylvain Sylvain was like a giddy little kid and was so excited to play that he exuded a kind of corny enthusiasm (the kind that would cause him to try to grab Johansen’s package at one point and seem charming in the process or to continue playing through a broken string as if nothing had happened). Guitarist Steve Conte, bassist Sami Yaffa (ex-Hanoi Rocks if you were wondering) and drummer Brian Delaney kept the energy going, but had the good sense not to interfere with the magic between Johansen and Sylvain. It was that magic, as much as the music itself, that made this show so intimate. For just an hour or so, we were all New York Dolls, sharing the wild fun that continues to make them a great rock and roll band.

Typically, a reunited band generates the most excitement with their old classics, but the Dolls actually got as much out of this crowd with their newer material. “Fishnets & Cigarettes” got every bit as much of a roar as “Personality Crisis,” which they tore into after sitting down for second then getting up and calling it their encore. They may be taking this opportunity to make some of the money they’ve long been due, but there’s no doubt that they’re willing to earn it in the here and now and not just cash in on their lauded past. Even if this wasn’t the opportunity to see a bit of history that it was, a band who’s influence extends across 35 years and far outshines its only meager commercial success, it would still have been a great time, because the New York Dolls, even at this point, put on an outstanding and outrageous show (without even dressing in drag). At one point, Sylvain announced, “It’s a great thing to be alive!” Indeed it is, indeed it is.

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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