New York Dolls + Hits + Velociraptor @ The Hi-Fi, 13.10.2011

I got to see the New York Dolls a couple of time back in 2007 when I went to both the Sydney and Gold Coast V Festivals. When you get to see a band a couple times in quick succession, you realise just how planned and rehearsed everything is, from the same set lists in the same order night after night to the same between song banter and jokes. Unwittingly the New York Dolls brought about one of the weekend’s most humorous incidents by repeating the same introduction to a cover of Piece of My Heart. Introducing the song by means of talking about the band’s influences he dedicated the song to Janis Joplin and the band launched straight into the song. At the Gold Coast show on the Sunday he used the same introduction only just as he was about to say “Janis Joplin” someone in the crowd, who had obviously also been to the Sydney show the day before yells out her name and completely steals David Johansen’s thunder, leaving him momentarily flummoxed. “Yeah…um…right….Janis Joplin”. Having seen the band those couple of times, I didn’t come away that impressed. They weren’t bad but you still couldn’t relate the band back to the band they might have been in the early 1970s and the impact they made on punk. Other than that song introduction, the residing memories of seeing the band were that Sylvain Sylvain wasn’t a very good guitarist, hamming it up, playing a few chords but leaving all the flashier playing to the band’s second guitarist and that David Johansen had scary old women hands. When you’re close up and looking through a camera viewfinder and seeing the nail varnish and all the rings on someone’s hands as they hold the microphone, you just ending noticing things like that.

Putting in to cover tonight is as much about the other bands playing as it is about the headline act, with three of Brisbane’s best live bands supporting; Millions, Velociraptor and Hits. However, the time that Millions were due to play rolls by and it seems like it’s typical service from The Hi-Fi, where the bands always play later than the venue has advertised on its Facebook page. When the curtain at the front of the stage finally opens, its Velocirpator who are revealed, lead singer Jeremy Neale explaining during their set that Millions had to drop out. Typically raucous set from Velociraptor, which ends with drummer Jesse taking his drum off the stage and into the open space between the between the stage and where those who have come early are stood. It’s one of those times I wish I had a flash with me as it’s just far too dark to photograph. Hits follow and play as well as they can but get absolutely no help from the sound system; it’s as bad a sound as I’ve heard at the venue, which has a well earnt reputation for having poor sound. It’s a shame but as with any Hits show, the audience don’t really seem to mind. The audience that’s come to see the New York Dolls, are a slightly older demographic with less mainstream, more old school punk tastes (e.g. 4ZZZ listeners) and so there’s no lack of crowd support for the band tonight.

When The New York Dolls start, the first thing to notice is that they have far superior sound than the support bands; the mix between instruments is far more even, you can hear the vocals more clearly and it’s a lot louder and less muffled. Although support bands are always going to get the rough end of the deal in terms of time to soundcheck, the difference between the headliner’s sound and the two supports tonight makes you think that it’s been done purposely so that no one has a chance to upstage the Dolls. Other than playing a much longer set than the 45 minutes or so they got at V Festival, and ultimately being better and a more enjoyable gig than those festival appearances, there’s very little change from when I saw them last time; Sylvain Sylvain is still a very average guitarist with a beautiful guitar collection who spends more time preening and hamming it up than he does actually playing much, although it obviously makes for good photos, and David Johansen still has old lady hands.

Sylvain still leaves all the flashy guitar playing to the second guitarist but as Johansen and Sylvain are the only two original members of the band still alive, I spend my three songs in the photo pit concentrating on them, only taking a handful of photos of anyone else on the stage. Back home after the show, when I’m checking the spelling of “Johansen” on Wikipedia, I find that the second guitarist in the band at the present time, the guy playing all the flashy riffs and solos while Sylvain Sylvain  strums the occasional chord, is none other than Earl Slick, guitarist on not just my favourite Bowie album but one of my all-time favourite records, Station To Station.  If I’d known I would have taken a lot more photos.  The moral of the story is to always do your research before you go and photograph a band.

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