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The Return of The Dolls

New York Dolls

New York Dolls -
Morrissey Presents The Return of the New York Dolls:
Live From The Royal Festival Hall

Reviewed: Sept. 20, 2004

3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

Review by Tony Bonyata

Even though this was the official reunion of the New York Dolls, arguably the first true punk rock band, I'll be the first to admit that I didn't really expect a whole lot from three aging cross-dressers in their fifties who haven't performed a lick on a stage together for thirty years. And considering that original guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan had long passed away, it seemed even more unlikely that they could pull off a convincing show.
But as the three remaining members of The Dolls (singer David Johansen, guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane) proved on their first reunited show as part of London's Meltdown Festival last June, documented on the soon to be released The Return of the New York Dolls: Live From The Royal Festival Hall, these mascara-clad rockers still possessed a lot of the same fire and passion from their glory years.
Rather than a blatant cash-in, the New York Dolls only decided to reunite after rock star and Meltdown Festival curator Morrissey's insistence that they headline the fest (Not only has Morrissey been a lifelong Dolls fan, but he also wrote a book on them before he made a name for himself fronting The Smiths, not to mention acting as their fan club president when he was only 18.)
On this live document, Johansen growls and salivates throughout favorites from the band's first two early '70s albums - their self-titled debut and the aptly titled Too Much, Too Soon. With session players filling out the larger-than-life shoes of Thunders and Nolan, the band, nonetheless, performs with surprising dexterity, even if there is an overall lack of urgency - one that was originally witnessed in the '70s at a time when The Dolls unwittingly built a bridge between glam and punk rock. Tearing through gritty takes of rockers such as "Looking For A Kiss," "Bad Girl," "Trash," "Vietnamese Baby" and their signature song "Personality Crisis" the band fortunately still exudes enough street spunk, however, to make you believe that Max's Kansas City had never closed their doors.
It should also be noted that this particular show documents the final recording of Arthur Kane, who died unexpectedly a month after this performance from leukemia. And it's this recording (which will also be released as a separate DVD) that stands as both a fitting epitaph and strong testament to one of the most important and influential acts of the 1970s.

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