@ Newcastle O2 Academy, March 27 2011

When the New York Dolls reformed in 2004 you can bet that reactions were divided equally between shock, horror and excitement.

Despite the terrible circumstances that bestowed them when bassist Arthur Kane died just 22-days after their reunion, Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen ardently stuck to what they originally set out to do. It mustn’t have been easy to say the least.

But now, the Dolls are as strong as you could expect a re-unified group to be – which isn’t a snipe at them at all. Johansen’s biggest problem nowadays is how to fit the long hours of touring around the time spent trying to fit back into old spandex.

Whilst this wasn’t exactly a tearful revisit to the place where latest album Dancing Backward In High Heels was recorded, the Newcastle crowd were ushered into the proceedings by Sylvain proclaiming ‘it’s good to be back home’.  Only after Looking For A Kiss finally surfaced from a haze of winy feedback was the introduction made.

They may have taken some time to settle, but really got into the swing of things with ‘Cause I Sez So, when the fiesty quintet delivered an appetising dose of sleaze-ridden glam punk.

Not only were there no complaints over their performance of the full-throttle classics like Who Are The Mystery Girls, but the New Yorkers also showed that they can take things slow and still clasp attention spans.  Where Tom Jones had his Johnny Cash moment with last year’s cover single of What Good Am I from the Praise and Blame record, the Dolls have crafted their own.  New song Kids Like You isn’t a typical track for the NY quintet, but was nevertheless brilliantly executed in sad, reflective yet nostalgic fashion.

Between songs there was some tomfoolery that not everyone would have appreciated, as it seemed to break up the set and flounder the air of professionalism that should really be radiating from these veterans. Nevertheless, with the royalty they have they can mess around as they please, right?

Whatever your opinion on their onstage banter, it’d be tough to deny their efforts musically and even visually. Johansen might not have been sporting his ridiculously tight lycra pants and six-inch platform shoes, but that didn’t take away any of the blase charm of old, with the 61-year-old wearing the tightest pair of jeans in the house and pulling it off in style.

Bizarrely the night’s encore finished proceedings with two renditions of End Of The Summer, after Sylvain insisted the whole band must repeat it in better tune.  Annoyingly this would’ve given them the chance to daze people with a new number or stun them with an old one rather than do the whole song again after already ploughing three-minutes into it.  However, it did mean that popular 70s hit Personality Crisis had a much stronger impact that even the most hardcore of fans could have expected, firing up the crowd for one more jive and ending with an uproar of approval.

If their performances are anything to go by, then we can expect that the New York Dolls won’t be letting up anytime soon. With a great performance to match the vivacity of their fresh material, these are exciting new times for a band that could quite easily have called it all off.  We’re glad they didn’t.

Calum Robson