The secret highlight for many fans
There are a lot of things that puzzle me about this set. Not just the bemusing presence of the New York Dolls at this festival, but that they choose to open with a tape of opera. It may have been slightly less risky to run through a wolf enclosure clad in raw meat. But they wouldn’t be the legends they are without little touches like that. It has diminished the crowd considerably, but it’s probably a good thing that the less than hardcore fans have wandered off.
Kicking things off with the fantastic ‘Babylon’ I don’t think even the band know quite why they’re here. That tiny detail isn’t going to stop them having a good time, though. David Johansen is beaming and bouncing around as they light up the room after Queensryche’s slower set. The vibe is more like a smaller club than the main stage, like we’re privy to something rare and exciting. Which for the most part is true. Compared to Queenryche’s military precision the Dolls come off as something of a disorganised rabble - the sound isn’t the greatest, and the group aren’t working together all of the time. But the reaction is so much bigger. The atmosphere has certainly won over choreographed accuracy, in the spirit of true rock n’ roll.
The set wasn’t a complete shambles. Johansen is an engaging frontman, although it’s still tough not to compare him to Mick Jagger. Other than Jagger not being seen dead in a place like this. Guitarist Sylvain Sylvain is also on hand, receiving a fair share of the applause and shouts, although his guitar sound is a little muddled and chaotic in the mix. The sloppiness musically is all part of the New York glam charm these guys exude, and it’s not simply style over substance. Newer track ‘Dance Like A Monkey’ is a fuzzy bundle of energy, proving that the secret to a long-lasting band is to constantly produce decent music, even if it never gets any promotion. The crowd goes completely bananas for ‘Pills’ and ‘Cause I Sez So’, perfectly aimed little shots of punk attitude that they are.
We end with ‘Trash’ before the whole thing descends into feedback-squealing chaos as Johansen slinks and wriggles his way across the stage before they take their leave. It’s an all-too-rare appearance that was just a pure rock n’ roll riot.