Friday, June 26, 2009

It's been a busy 24 hours.

First off, R.I.P. Michael Jackson. I've never been the hugest fan of the self-titled "King of Pop," but it's hard to deny his sheer massiveness as a cultural icon. As much as he's become an object of ridicule over the last several years - and rightfully so, far as I'm concerned - it's made him all the more tragic, and his end was so sudden I can't help but feel a pang of loss.

There's no shortage of news circulating around about his death, but the Daily Hampshire Gazette did a story detailing local reactions in which I got quoted for a few short paragraphs. Here's the link:

Last night was also the night of the New York Dolls show at Pearl Street, which was pretty great all in all. Opening act Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears were solid, high-energy R&B-infused rock and roll, good stuff. The Dolls played a set that was curiously heavy with new material, which means a lot of songs that much of the audience - including myself - probably didn't know so well. The new material was good, though, and it made it that much more exciting when the old nuggets from the band's early 1970s heyday came to the fore.

Highlight of the evening to my mind was the final two songs before the encore: "Trash" and "Jet Boy," two of the best from the band's first album. "Trash" was especially intriguing in performance, as the band changed up the second half of the song quite dramatically, shifting from its basic proto-punk style to a slowed-down, calypso beat and harmonic progression during which singer David Johansen briefly drifted into a skewed version of the 1950s Mickey and Sylvia tune "Love Is Strange," before the whole band finally moved back into the more straight-up rock of the original recorded version and brought the song to an exciting finish, made more exciting by the fact that "Jet Boy" came next.

"Jet Boy" might be my favorite of the old Dolls songs. It has weird comic book style lyrics about a boy who flies around New York, but what makes it so great is its killer main riff and even more so, the song's mid-section, where the band accelerates the tempo and the guitars rush into overdrive. The 1973 recording is one of the landmark songs in rock music, the band almost veering towards a sort of early speed metal with the power of the riff that plays during that midsection. In concert last night they did a great job with it but stretched it out a bit more than necessary, so it lost a bit of its punch. Still, it was great to get to see them play it, with Sylvain doing all the scene-stealing guitar posturing he could fit and Johansen wearing a goofy grin as he did through much of the evening.

I promised some unpublished writing on the Dolls in my last post; I'll keep it in reserve for my next post since this one's already running on the longer side. For now, here's a great old clip of the Dolls - the real Dolls - in action back in the 1970s playing "Jet Boy" (from the video All Dolled Up, which has amazing old video footage of the Dolls shot by photographer Bob Gruen):

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