The New York Dolls, Spizzenergi - 100 Club

Steve Ellis 14/05/2009

The New York Dolls, AT THE 100 CLUB! What's this all about? A pairing of one of New York's most legendary groups and London's most iconic venue. Okay, so it may be a reconstituted Dolls line-up and the 100 club is no longer the heart of the capital's music scene, but this is still pretty big potatoes.

For those not completely familiar with the New York Dolls, they were an early 1970s NYC club band who practically invented punk, glam-rock and 80s hair metal. They bastardised the blues riff to maximum affect and made The Rolling Stones look like a Christian folk band. As if following the guide to Rock 'n' Roll excess, it all came to a sudden, messy end in 1975. They fell out, split up and practically faded away.

When guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan died in the early 1990s many thought they'd never see the Dolls again. Then the three surviving members reformed in 2004 under the guidance of Morrissey, their most famous fan. They stormed the Meltdown festival and found themselves back in demand.

It came as yet another hammer blow when Arthur Kane died in 2004, just months after the successful reunion. The Dolls being the Dolls rolled with the punch and replaced Kane with Sámi Yaffa, the former Hanoi Rocks bass player. The reinvigorated troupe have since released two studio albums, equalling their 1970s output.

That brings us just about up to date.

To give you some idea of the appeal of this band, the gig sold out in under five minutes and tickets were then selling for four times the value of the price on eBay. But was it worth it?

The crowd erupted as singer David Johansen and co walked through the crowd to take the stage. Never again would they get to see the Dolls in their early 70s toilet circuit pomp but this could be damn close if the band played it right.

And play it right they did. Opening with the classic Babylon was a good move. It confirmed that the band weren't just there to plug a new record but to put on a show for their fans. They followed up with a new tune Cause I Sez So. A song off the new album squeezed in while the tightly rammed crowd were still on a high.

We're All In Love followed next. It may only be three years old but has become almost as well loved as the classics. The lesson here is, if you're going to play new songs, make sure you pick the ones that fans can sing along to.

Sámi Yaffa introduced Private World and dedicated it to it's songwriter and his predecessor, Arthur 'Killer' Kane. Yaffa himself seems to be more of a natural part of the band than the other 'new' members. Maybe it's Hanoi Rocks' long association with Dolls members or maybe it's because he's an old pro who's seen it all before. He also looks like he's made a pact with the devil, having barely aged a day since 1985.

Stranded In The Jungle was a popular tune recorded by the Jayhawks in the 1950s. The Dolls covered it in 1974 and it is a firm fan favourite. Judging by the reaction, this still holds true. The band should be applauded, not only for the way they turned it out but also for having the guts to play a non-PC number in such precious times.

Looking For A Kiss and Tommy repeated the trick of a classic followed by a new favourite. The ropey old sound of the 100 Club PA system just added to atmosphere especially when Sylvain sang the opening verse to Thunder's 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory and blended it with the Dolls' own bona-fide heartbreaker Lonely Planet Boy.

There was plenty of swagger and a whole lot of shing-a-ling in the Dolls as guitarist Sylvain Sylvain seemed to be having a great time monkeying around for the crowd. Johansen and Yaffa had a bit of playful onstage antics about sharing the overhead air-con unit. If they thought it was sweltering under the lights they should've jumped into the pit.

They finished on a high, Dance Like A Monkey was followed by with the clap-along anthem Jet Boy and the coffee shop shuffle of Trash (played in both the original style and a new calypso version). Then the band left the stage to thunderous applause. There were only three hundred people here, but it sounded like a thousand.

After a short break they came back on with another new song. Exorcism Of Despair was the only off moment during the gig. It's a great title for a song but unfortunately it is not the 1st song in an encore. It may have been more prudent to switch it with We're All In Love or perhaps to have dropped it all together.

But that momentary slump was quickly forgotten when the opening riff to Personality Crisis blasted out. Over the years it has become the signature tune of the band, with the crowd aping the bird calls of the recorded version.

And then, that was that. The Dolls at the 100 Club was over. Sweat dripped from everywhere and everyone as people filed out knowing they'd witnessed a once in a lifetime gig. It can't be very cost effective for a band of their size to be playing a club this small but let's hope we don't have to wait another 30 years for it to happen again.