New York Dolls

New York Dolls

with Fantasie and The F-Pipes

House of Blues, Orlando, FL • 10-28-05

I can never seem to get my timing right for House of Blues shows. Either I get there too early and suffer through the opening acts, or I get there too late and my standing spot is way in the back and the stage is hard to see. Tonight I was early, a reasonable risk to see the fabled New York Dolls.

The show drew a respectable crowd, evenly split between aging punks and hippies like me, and a younger crowd who likely never owned a piece of vinyl, except for maybe a bustier. The crowd was pleasantly laid back as we patiently waded thorough The F-Pipes a band that gets an A+ on attitude and a D+ on musical ability. They made do with a single chord, a single beat, and single volume setting that buried any lyrics that might lurk inside. They drew a few half-hearted “fuck you’s” from the crowd, but even the die-hards in the front row seemed uninterested. On a positive note, their drummer looked great and kept things rolling, but I have absolutely no idea what they were singing about.

After a short beer break, the slightly more interesting Fantasie arrived. They sounded a bit like White Stripes with two extra guitar players. Front man Viv DeLay (a.k.a. Fred Mullins) looked a bit like The Unknown Ramone, and guitarist Cash Hardcastle (a.k.a. Jenifer Hathaway) looked bored as she wandered absently around stage. This band drew a smattering of polite applause, but I haven’t found out much about them, except they are Orlando-based and might be moving to NYC. They held up an acceptable sound, but I can’t say they really warmed us up for the main event.

A few more beers and by 10, the place was pleasantly full — enough people to give the Dolls a good mirror, yet not so many you couldn’t move. Eventually, we heard a few promising chords from behind the HOB curtain, and the real rock show was on. A scrawny David Johansen strode on stage wearing tight black jeans and a Shiva/ Kali rhinestone-studded loin cloth. This guy has way more hair than a guy his age ought to have, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and trust it’s real. The Dolls lived hard and died fast, and the only other original member on stage was Sylvain Sylvain. Supporting them was the ageless Steve Conte, bassist Sami Yaffa, keyboard virtuoso Brian Koonin, and drummer Brian Delaney. Johansen clearly lorded over the crowd, even if his sneer seems more friendly and reminiscent than the snotty glam he once was.

We were there for there for the hits, and no new material was offered, nor looked for. After the slightly wobbly “Looking for a Kiss,” the new New York Dolls gave us all the “A” material from their two early 1970s albums. Gems like “Puss ‘n Boots,” “Mystery Girls” and “Vietnamese Baby” weren’t overshadowed by the nice cover of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s “Take Another Piece of my Heart.” They all built to the first real climax, the rocking “Pills.” People on the floor were moshing, 50-year-old bald guys were pogoing, and I caught the whiff of someone violating the Nancy Reagan No Smoking Ban. While the feeling of incipient riot was never there, a few people were pushed around until the ever-efficient HOB security team intervened, and calmed down the over-enthusiastic with no interference from anyone else.

No one vomited, but Conte nailed one loogie into the audience, more for old time’s sake than effect. Rockers age, and that bottle of Jack Daniels now is a case of Zephyrhills water. More hits flowed, we were all back in high school, and a blazing “Personality Crisis” was our reward at the official end of the show. Plenty of stamping and telling brought an encore, and the band returned with foil wrapped zucchini in their jeans, then drilled us with “Human Being.” It’s all you could want — good, trashy music is timeless, and these guys can still deliver the goods. I hope they didn’t have to go to bed early.

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