The corner of Stanwix and Liberty overflowed last night with festival-goers eager to get an earful of '70s glam icons The New York Dolls, in town as part of this year's Three Rivers Arts Festival. The Dolls' raucous set was a mixture of tunes from their heyday, plenty of cuts from their 2006 reunion album, One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This and some odds 'n' sods, including an iffy cover of "Piece of My Heart," made famous by Janis Joplin.
The harsh and indistinct sound quality at the show was a drawback, and made it hard to tell how good or bad the Dolls' performance was -- though they and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves. As the Dolls played the triumphant "Happiness" toward the end of their set, I slipped off down Liberty Avenue; as soon as I rounded the corner, the sound seemed to improve drastically and even get louder. Strange but true.
Opening the show was local band Takeover U.K., currently promoting their debut EP on Rykodisc, It's All Happening. The band attacked the short garage-pop songs, bringing a barbed intensity to what seemed otherwise fairly standard retro-rock. For some reason, the Leonard Cohen album title New Skin for the Old Ceremony popped
into my head, and summed up their set for me; I guess that makes the Dolls' set "old skin for the old ceremony." Indeed.
In some respects, watching the crowd was more interesting than watching the bands onstage -- especially the shock of seeing some pasty '80s Night refugees and the cast of Dee's Café in broad daylight -- but that's kind of what these things are for. Eat a funnel cake; chit-chat with your friends; gawk; see a band play. Repeat.