Friday, June 5, 2009

New York Dolls concert review

[Apologies for the belated posting. A version of my review originally appeared at on May 23]

New York Dolls
House of Blues, Anaheim, CA
May 22

During a well-attended 90-minute set at the Mouse House, equally divided between ’70s and ’00s material, the Dolls put on a spirited performance despite a muddled sound mix in the first half.

Dressed in a long-sleeved red silk shirt, blue jeans and a scarf, the still-svelte singer David Johansen, 59, sported orange-tinted shades. He was in fine gravelly voice throughout and continues to possess a cool factor few active veterans (except Lou Reed) can match. Maybe it’s a New York thing.

Everything got off to a raucous start with the classic “Looking for a Kiss.” A male/female couple in full glam attire and teased up hair bobbed in unison near the stage as a teen guy with a large spiked Mohawk nodded in approval. Johansen blew through the first of several harmonica solos on the eerie “We’re All in Love” and prompted the crowd to sing along. They dutifully obliged, responding enthusiastically to new tunes like the swampy blues of “Nobody Got No Bizness.”

Original guitarist Sylvain Mizrahi excelled in the harmony department (not to mention assorted animal noises in the “Jungle/Monkey” segment) and endearingly sang lead on the Thunders tribute medley “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory/Lonely Planet Boy.” He and Steve Conte engaged in some memorable electric guitar duels, especially on an extended “Private World,” which contained a snatch of “Land of 1000 Dances.”

Toward the end, the band took the energy level up a few notches with their sizzling cover of Bo Diddley’s “Pills” (and more wicked harp work from Johansen). A slam pit began with the opening notes of “Trash” and continued all the way through the reggae breakdown section (!), a blazing “Jet Boy” (loved the nod to John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom”) and fun encore “Personality Crisis.”

Main set: Looking for a Kiss/ ‘Cause I Sez So / We’re All in Love / Stranded in the Jungle / Dance Like a Monkey / Nobody Got No Bizness / Private World / Better Than You / Who Are the Mystery Girls / Gotta Get Away from Tommy / Drowning / Medley: You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory/Lonely Planet Boy / My World / Pills / Muddy Bones / Trash / Jet Boy
Encore: Personality Crisis

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