Let’s say the obvious right away – this Fillmore East show on December 28 and 29 of 2007 is a sad reminder of what the New York Dolls might have accomplished had their fiery crash back in the late ‘70s never happened. Sprung from the seedy overgrowth of NYC’s rich music underground, the Dolls helped reset the music of that time. But, after only two albums, and tepid interest from an audience with one foot in the past, the other still undecided on where to rest, the New York Dolls disintegrated into other ventures. Jerry Nolan, who had replaced Billy Murcia after a drug-related death, joined forces with Johnny Thunders in a wonderful unit called Heartbreakers. The Heartbreakers largely roamed the streets of NYC, but had some success in other parts. David Johansen delivered a fantastic first album on Blue Sky Records, with Syl Sylvain. Sylvain eventually broke-off and signed with RCA to produce several albums. Arthur Kane moved around eventually fronting a touring unit called Killer Kane. Since, Nolan, Thunders, and Kane have all died, leaving only two remaining members from a band that meant more than they’re credited for.
New York Dolls reformed for a series of shows with only Kane (before his death), Johansen, and Sylvain the remaining original members. After Kane’s passing, the band delivered yet another studio work, the appropriately titled One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. The release of Live at the Fillmore East erases any question marks in this post-resurrection entity.
The album shows the band to be in an amazingly strong form. The show as released on this album runs through ten NYDolls classics, including a touching “Lonely Planet Boy,” which incorporates “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” from Johnny Thunder’s extraordinary solo outing So Alone (1978). Here, Johansen pays proper homage to Thunders’ NYDolls legacy by vocalizing the mournful thought that “you can’t put your arms around Johnny.”
Most of the songs provided are excellent live versions of songs from their first and last albums, with two from their recent reunion effort. All of the notable ones are here, including NYDolls’ first single from ‘back in the day,’ the electric “Trash,” which perfectly segues into “Jet Boy.” The guitar playing of Steve Conte (NYC’s Crown Jewels – now on hiatus) is exemplary and respectful of Thunders’ style. Based on his live performance with The Dolls, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on his career to see where he goes and how he develops further.
Live at The Fillmore East is a dynamic live album, many years away from the youth of the band, but as great as it can possibly be given the noticeable absences. In turn, it deserves a slot in the New York Dolls section of your library. You can acquire this album without fear that it is a squeeze-play on the band’s name and legend. It rocks as well as the band would have if all the originals were in place.