Music Review: New York Dolls show pulsates with energy

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Most Three Rivers Arts Festival concerts involve kicking back with a lemonade and a plate of something fried. That's not what the New York Dolls and their fans had in mind Sunday night.

From the moment the band hit the stage everyone was up, and what commenced was a loud, sloppy-good rock 'n' roll show that couldn't have been radically different than the ones played 35 years ago.

The reunited Dolls are two-fifths of the original band, because that's all that's left. Johnny Thunders, Arthur "Killer" Kane, Jerry Nolan, Billy Murcia -- RIP. That leaves singer David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain with three ringers who need only play full-out and let Johansen do his thing.

The frontman is one of those rock 'n' roll world wonders -- 58, but looking 28 from 20 yards away. He prowled the stage like some woozy starlet in his skin-tight jeans, denim jacket and red scarf, barking out brash vocals and playing a mean blues harp. "I am so happy to be in your municipality," he said, but really, he seemed to be blissfully above it all.

The Dolls opened with two songs from '74 -- "Babylon" and "Puss N Boots" -- fighting distortion in the sound system that only added to the crazy energy. Sylvain said it wouldn't be a nostalgia act, and he was right, as the Dolls played more than a half-dozen songs from the 2006 comeback album "Someday It Will Please Us to Remember Even This," none of them a great departure from the band's over-the-top glam-punk sound.

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Of course, the old stuff generated the most excitement: Bo Diddley's "Pills," complete with killer harmonica solo; "Private World," with its Jim Morrison mid-section; first-album classics "Trash," "Looking for a Kiss" and "Personality Crisis"; and "Monkey Business," on which Johansen called for "woo-woos" from "even the winos in the back."

For one night, the gray-haired hipsters, the crusty punks, the hippies and young rockers got to party like it was East Village 1973.

Opening the show was The Takeover UK, playing a set of well-crafted, nicely harmonized power-pop that fell somewhere between the Beatles and the Strokes.

Scott Mervis can be reached at or 412-263-2576. First Published June 17, 2008 4:00 AM


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