New York Dolls/The Vivians - London, Koko - 19th April 2010 Print E-mail
Written by Fraser Munro   
Tuesday, 27 April 2010 06:10

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At the dawn of the Seventies the Dolls crawled out of the New York gutter and pouted their way into the annals of rock 'n' roll history. Combining everything that was cool about the Rolling Stones with monstrous, distorted Chuck Berry riffs, they quite simply laid out a template for every cool rock band that followed them. Two über cool albums later they were gone but their legacy continued to live on.

In 2004 prayers were answered when the surviving band members returned, due to the insistence of their former UK fan club president Morrissey, in order to headline London's über smug Meltdown festival. Unfortunately within weekssylvain of that triumphant show Arthur Kane joined Thunders, Nolan and Murcia in rock 'n' roll heaven.

 

Today, Johansen and Sylvain are the only original (and living) members in the band, but the mighty big shoes of Thunders, Kane and Nolan have been ably filled by Steve Conte, Sami Yaffa and Brian Delaney respectively. The reformed Dolls are now six years and two albums into their second coming and tonight they are playing a one off show in London as a part of a brief European tour. London's Koko was formally the Camden Palace and is a magnificent old theatre. Decked out in red and gold with three balconies and several VIP boxes either side of the stage, the venue feels grand but cool. It has a lived-in but glamorous character, much like the Dolls themselves.

 

First up tonight we have The Vivians. A quick scour of the Internet tells me "Their attitude may be reminiscent of punk although their music refreshingly takes influence from a broader musical spectrum." My take would have been, they look like they've bought all the style magazines, a couple of Strokes and Bravery albums and created an Eighties 'Jock rock' band. Tonight is allegedly their last show. Jog on boys.

 

The New York Dolls are altogether a different beast. As anticipation builds, you can feel you are about to be in the presence of greatness. As the band hit the stage and rip into 'Looking For A Kiss' my fellow Übeconter Röck scribe turns to me and delivers the quote of the night, "what a retard am I, that singer and his missus were in the lift at the Holiday Inn with me earlier." A brush with greatness for both parties I'm sure!

 

The band slip straight into their second era with 'Cause I Sez So' and 'We're All In Love' bringing things right up to date, before returning to their 1973 debut for 'Private World.' Johnny Thunders was undoubtedly a legend, possibly the coolest guitar player ever, but tonight Steve Conte more than fills his Chelsea boots, reminding everyone just what a guitar hero looks and sounds like. The band continue to cruise through a set containing classic after classic after classic, but there is a certain tired and jaded feeling around the band that they don't really shake off. Sure they were good, excellent even, but the New York Dolls are supposed to be great each and every night. Their legend demands it!

 

As usual Sylvain is the star of the show, his version of Thunder's 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory' is always a highlight as it slips seamlessly into 'Lonely Planet Boy'. This demonic little fella rules the stage though, and when Sami Yaffa pretends to tdavidnydhrow Syl's rather spiffing Dolls painted biker jacket into the crowd you could almost taste the panic in his eyes.

 

Tonight was billed as a tribute to the recently departed Malcolm McLaren and though he was briefly mentioned by the ever loveable Sylvain at one point during the set, the supposed special guests were sadly nowhere to be seen. That said, sloth like TV host Jonathan Ross was living it up with his entourage in one of the VIP boxes.



Steve Conte suffers with technical problems throughout the set resulting in an underlying 'electric crackling' to the sound which is eventually taken out on a firmly booted guitar amp leaving him helpless with no sound at all for the final rip rawing run through 'Personality Crisis'.



The New York Dolls are one of the most important bands in the history of rock 'n' roll and for this they deserve to be worshipped. All in all tonight they were simply excellent, but perhaps not quite up there with Conte and Yaffa's previous appearance on a London stage as a part of (Dolls disciple) Michael Monroe's band only a couple of weeks ago. Now that was truly great!

 

Photo kudos to Raquel F