David Johansen walks a line between high energy rock 'n' roll and personal art with more style and flamboyance than anyone in rock today. Johansen gained a reputation in the early '70s as the street-tough front man for the New York Dolls, a band whose outrageously primitave and chaotic revision of the Rolling Stones' style helped lay the foundatin for modern punk.
At the Bayou last night, Johansen was still very much the exciting street punk, but his music has evolved into a more compelling nd accomplished synthesis of black and white rock 'n' roll than anything the Dolls attempted. As soon as he took the stage, he jumped into "Cool Metro" and bragged over and over, "I feel cool." He spent the rest of the set proving it.
Johnasen's roots were written all over the hardnosed R 'n' B of "Funky but Chic," his glorious Four Tops tribute, called "Melody," and a cover of Mithc Ryder's "Sock It To Me Baby." If Johansen typically portrays the high-voltage white hipster, in songs like "Flamingo Road" and "Frenchette" he becomes a clever and effective dramatist of the absurdities of modern romance.
Johansen was physically dramatic, too. He danced, pranced and leaped in the air. When he threw himself into the crowd during his cover of the Four Tops' "Reach Out, I'll Be There," the audience lifted him on their shoulders and sang with him, "I'll Be There." He was their hero.