Let's give a big round of applause to the New York Dolls. They really know how to put on a show. Instead of just sitting around, thinking about the good old days and waiting for the Social Security checks to start trickling in, they're tearing it up on the road and having a great time doing it. Exhibit A: Higher Ground Wednesday night. (Note:The bit about the checks only applies to original members David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, since Social Security will be long gone before the other three guys are old enough to get it.) Decades after those almost-famous good old days, the Dolls celebrate their legacy without wallowing in it. The reunion is over, these guys are WORKING.
They played a healthy dose of songs from the brand-new Cause I Sez So. The album itself is merely OK — I blame Todd Rungren's muddy production. But the bluesy vibe of those songs translates well to the stage. Numbers like "Nobody Got No Bizness," "Ridiculous" and the title track sounded great, much better than the recorded versions. And they played stuff from all the other phases of their career (except the 32 years between the second and third records). Two from Too Much Too Soon; three off the third album, whose title is so long I don't feel like typing it out. And of course they played a bunch of songs off their greatest work: the 1973 self-titled debut. Also produced by Todd Rungren. Go figure.
But it was not just the music that made this show so much fun. New York Dolls are (still) entertainers. Sylvain is more than a guitarist, he's a second frontman. He was constantly egging on the band and connecting with the audience, talking to fans in the front and holding his guitar out over the stage to let people strum it. He also had a nice little moment where he sang a Johnny Thunders song. And Johansen sang his ass off, blew a mean harp and strutted his stuff all over the place.
It was obvious that they were glad to be there and having a blast — the band had a little game going where they would throw guitar picks atthe cymbal they thought the drummer would end the song on. Johansen hada pocket full of picks for this express purpose. And they rocked their hardest even for a small crowd. New York Dolls' enthusiasm was contagious, leaving everyone smiling ear to ear, clapping, stomping and singing along.