The first New York punk band, the last proto-punk band, freaks, transvestites, heroes -- call them what you will, but the New York Dolls need no introduction. David Johansen seemed to agree as he took the stage at the Melkweg, barely pausing to grab the mic before opening with those oh-so-familiar words: “When I say I'm in love you'd best believe I'm in love, L-U-V!” From that moment, it was easy to tell this would be one hell of a show.
Sure, there are only two original members left. Sure, Johansen is close to 60. But when they blazed into “Looking for a Kiss,” the crowd forgot all that and just took in an incredibly energetic show from one of the most influential bands of all time -- certainly the most important band I've ever seen. Their immensely dirty rock and roll, which so many bands revered within the punk community were created by, sounded incredible in person. The only nod they made to their egos was after their second song, when Johansen declared “They say the New York Dolls influenced a lot of people. Well, I dunno about that, but our favourite band is Janis Joplin” before launching into a staggering cover of her “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart” (it was the 26th anniversary of Joplin's death). This turned out to be only the first tribute to a fallen comrade, as they followed by dedicating “Private World” to Killer Kane and even played Johnny Thunders' “You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory."
All the while, the band seemed to be having loads of fun in their unsurprisingly flamboyant, uniformly pink and black attire. Johansen engaged in his trademark freakily-sexual dancing, Syl Sylvain joked around, and they generally seemed very honest and energetic, especially at downright silly moments like the entirety of “Dance Like a Monkey” and Syl Sylvain's wondering if the crowd's huge applause to the announcement of “Trash” meant they thought his band was trash.
Speaking of the crowd, they were superb -- one of the most energetic I've seen in Holland, and fittingly eclectic for the show they were at. This brought Johansen to reminisce the last time they were in Amsterdam, 33 years prior -- it sounded like he enjoyed himself. It was mutual, as by the last song of the regular set, I certainly didn't want the show to end. Of course, the end of the set brought the obvious encore of “Personality Crisis,” which the crowd naturally loved. They finished on one more encore, consisting of a song from their new album (from which they had been playing quite a lot of cuts, all of which sounded great, especially “Fishnets & Cigarettes”) announced as “Go Fuck Yourself” (not the real title, I'm not sure what it's actually called) and “Human Being.” Then it was finally over, and we left feeling awed. I think I can safely say that I owe Morrissey thanks for getting the Dolls to regroup, as this show was incredible, and deserves no less than a 10/10.
Partial set list (sequential but missing songs):
- Looking for a Kiss
- We're All in Love
- Take Another Little Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin)
- Fishnets & Cigarettes
- Private World (To Killer Kane)
- Plenty of Music
- Dancing on the Lip of a Volcano
- Rainbow Store
- You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Johnny Thunders)
- Gimme Luv & Turn on the Light
- Dance Like a Monkey
- Encore: Personality Crisis
- Encore 2: “Go Fuck Yourself”
- Human Being