Put New York Dolls tickets in pocket - check; make sure passport is up to date - check; get on jumbo jet - check; take seat - check; watch brother in law pass out - check......WTF I hear you say. Well, I am going to see a band who have had a lifetime's share of tragedy and misfortune so why should I expect everything to run smoothly.
Booked a vacation, sorry holiday, in Florida for two weeks with the family and, as you do, check to see if there are any decent bands in the area before you go. Just imagine my amazement when I look up the House Of Blues, Orlando and find that on the first night I arrive none other than the New York Dolls are in town. Fan-bloody-tastic I thought, so got a family member who was already out there to stop what he was doing and nip down to the venue and get me a pair of tickets, ASAP - never mind he was in the queue to hop on the “Spiderman” ride, there were New York Dolls tickets to get me.
Now flights can be delayed, we all know that, but after checking the departure board I am pleased to see that mine is on time and ready to roll and it’ll get me into Florida at 5pm local time which will give me about four hours to get through immigration, get hire car and take my time down to the venue. Now if you’ve ever had the misfortune to be sat on a plane waiting to take off only to find there is a delay it can be a frustrating time but how often do you find that you are in possession of two of the hottest tickets for a show that is the same night and the person causing the delay is travelling with you! What a dick, I hear you say, how thoughtless of him, and you’d be right. Anyway, moving swiftly on, they took the ill brother in law off the flight and we managed to take off two whole hours late meaning my leisurely trip downtown is getting tighter and tighter. I begin to sweat and that’s before I get off the jet in the 115 degree heat. After much more sweating I breeze through immigration which was pain free and jump in the hired convertible and make it to the venue with about 120 seconds to spare. As I walk in and go straight to the bar to reward myself with a lovely vodka on ice the cheer goes up and on to the stage swaggers five of the world's coolest dudes from one of the world's coolest bands. As they strap on their instruments I move a little closer to find myself a spot to take in another performance from the legend that is the “New York Dolls”.
I look round and see the House of Blues franchise is a wonderfully air conned building with a pretty decent view regardless of where you stand and it also has a balcony to watch the bands - it is also done out like a gypsy’s caravan which is nice (stop sniggering Mr H-Bomb) and totally fitting for the band who are on the stage. The venue is about half full which is a surprise for me in the vacation capital of America - didn’t realise there were this many clued up locals or was it likeminded holidaymakers? Who cares - the band launch into 'Babylon', I’m excited, they look good and Mr Johansen is sporting a new haircut and he looks lean and in dandy form. Sylvain Sylvain (so good he named himself twice) is his camp self decked out with his trademark curly barnet and holster with toy gun strapped on and looking like he’s having a ball. Filling the mightily big shoes to the stage left is Steve Conte who seems to be growing into his role and carving out his own place in this legendary line up and doing so without resorting to copying the late Mr Thunders but pulling his own shapes and looking comfortable in his very fetching hat and white Les Paul. Keeping the ship tight and grooving along is the evergreen Mr Yaffa (one of my favs and ex Hanoi bassman) with his battered old Fender slung nice n low, and on drums Mr Delaney playing like his life depends on it. The crowd seems to be entering in to the spirit of what the Dolls are all about and the band seem to be having a ball and grasping this second chance with both hands. As 'Babylon' comes to a close it's straight into 'We're All In Love' off the “comeback album” and then without introduction the first offering from the latest release - title track 'Cause I Sez So'. For me there are many bands I’ve loved that are still going but one of the first bands who really got to me after seeing the cover of their first album were the Dolls and I still get “that” feeling when I listen to them and, having had to opportunity to see them several times in recent years, they still don’t disappoint. I did wonder how they would do without Arthur Kane and more so Johnny Thunders but I’m not one of those precious people who aren’t interested in “old bands” doing it for the money when original members are missing. God damn it three of these boys are dead but to hear 'Jetboy', 'Babylon', 'Trash', 'Personality Crisis' being performed by messrs Johansen and Sylvain is something that should be cherished and welcomed with open arms not scorned upon or mocked.
There is a great mix of songs from all four albums and new songs like 'Muddy Bones' and 'Fishnets & Cigarettes' fit in alongside timeless classics and I can’t stop grinning. Sadly the show comes to an end; after over an hour and a half the band vanish to the stage left and Sylvain is the first one out for a well deserved encore and chats to the crowd before breaking into 'You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory/Lonely Planet Boy' then it's time for the calypso start of 'Trash' before the band crank out the final number and as 'Personality Crisis' crashes out the final crescendo the staff at the HOB draw the stage curtain and the house lights come on. It’s over and I wipe the sweat off my brow, oh hang on a minute, what sweat? Now in the UK outside it's usually cold and inside it's usually a smelly, sweaty venue but on the other side of the pond it’s the opposite - outside it's sweltering but inside it’s air conditioned and fresh; how odd I think to myself as I grab myself a $25 t shirt and Steve Conte’s cd for a much more reasonable $10. If only all bands could be as good as the New York Dolls. They ooze class and have a rare swagger in an age when the “Biz” chew up and spit out music trends like daily newspapers and if it works the following day there are dozens of copy cat bands who do it all by numbers and the old guard soon get forgotten. Thankfully there are a few exceptions to that rule and I’ve just seen one of them. I feel blessed and lucky - God Bless the New York Dolls, long may you continue.