It remarkably had been over 25 years since I last saw Buster Poindexter perform. In the meantime, I had seen his non-alter-ego, David Johansen, do several laid-back shows to the accompaniment of just his guitarist, Brian Koonin. After a recent blog journey down memory lane about Buster, I was therefore more than thrilled to have this opportunity to see him play the new small upstairs City Winery room in his New York City home.
The small cozy room was at near capacity for the early 7pm show start. With no opener, Buster’s backing quartet of only one familiar face (Koonin) kicked things off with a musical and whimsical introduction to their band leader that upon his arrival, morphed into a mellow rendering of perhaps the best-known Johansen solo song, “Funky But Chic.” This wasn’t the Poindexter musical style that I last saw, but that was OK by me.
Uncertainty then lingered in the air about what would lay ahead this evening, and our host wasted no time in telling us. Preparing for an upcoming return residency to the Café Carlyle, tonight would be “a preview or rather, a rehearsal” of what they would be doing there. It would be a showcase of songs that David has written. Thus, an apt title for the evening would be “Buster Poindexter Sings the Songs of David Johansen.”
This “warning” solicited the first of several responses from one non-bashful audience member who said about the upcoming Carlyle gig, “That place is too expensive.” While, neither I nor Buster was interested in any artist-audience dialog, I have to say that this fellow was spot on. I had once investigated seeing Buster at the Carlyle and decided that I would use the money to go to Europe instead.
The set proceeded with a delightful mix of Johansen solo songs and cuts from the three New York Dolls’ reunion records, instead of the usual concoction of campy cover songs that normally comprise the Poindexter repertoire. The band played in a soft subdued style that made for the perfect backdrop to appreciate just what a great songwriter Johansen is. In fact, the show was actually quite similar in style and setlist to the recent “David Johansen” shows I had seen with just he and Koonin which was by any means not a complaint.
But of course, a Poindexter show would not be complete without Buster spinning tales between songs. However, one thing tonight was that although they were all comically embellished, they were all true and mostly about the early days around the birth of the Dolls. It was great stuff that was all new to these ears. And yes, our friend in the crowd again had something to say and again he was right on when he told David/Buster, “Write a book!”
This rather laid-back introspective songwriter showcase had me thinking how we need to get David to visit Nashville and play the iconic haven for songwriters, The Bluebird Cafe. But, for the moment we were all waiting for what we expected might happen in the encore when all hell broke loose, and Buster and the band rocked out hard to the Dolls’ barn-burning classic “Personality Crisis.” For this room full of AARP-card holding fans, it was sure good to lose it for a few minutes and get a little crazy to this timeless romp.
Long live the New York Dolls, David Johansen and Buster Poindexter! Maybe I’ll borrow some money and go to the Carlyle. BTW–The set list for this night’s show was the same one he recently played uptown for the rich folks!
- Funky But Chic (from 1978 solo LP David Johansen)
- Melody (from 1979 solo LP In Style)
- Better Than You (from the 2009 New York Dolls LP Cause I Sez So)
- Temptation to Exist (from the 2009 New York Dolls LP Cause I Sez So)
- Plenty of Music (from 2006 New York Dolls LP One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This)
- Making Rain (from the 2009 New York Dolls LP Cause I Sez So)
- Talk to Me Baby (from the 2011 New York Dolls LP Dancing Backward in High Heels)
- Lonely Planet Boy (from 1973 New York Dolls LP New York Dolls)
- Kids Like You
- Dancing on the Lip of a Volcano (from 2006 New York Dolls LP One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This)
- Totalitarian State (from the 1993 compilation Cash Cow: The Best of Giorno Poetry Systems 1965-1993)
- Maimed Happiness (from 2006 New York Dolls LP One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This)
- Frenchette (from 1978 solo LP David Johansen)
- Wandering Spirit (unreleased)
- Take a Good Look at My Good Looks (from 2006 New York Dolls LP One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This)
- Personality Crisis (from 1973 New York Dolls LP New York Dolls)
David Johansen aka Buster Poindexter – Vocals
Brian Koonin – Guitar
Richard Hammond – Bass
Ray Grappone – Drums
John Deley– Piano