With the primitive onslaught and stylistic outrage of the New York Dolls well behind him, David Johansen is now just a sensational performer in the classical rock 'n' roll tradition. At the Wax Museum last night, Johansen was very much the veteran prizefighter who has always been a top contender. His theatrical moves aroused the crowd time and time again, and he delivered some powerful punches courtesy of rock history.
Backed by an excellent, if conventional, five-piece rock 'n' roll band, Johansen got the crowd hopping with Creedence's "Bad Moon Rising," the Cadets' "Stranded in the Jungle" and his Animals medley. But Johansen's rough, passionate voice was at its best on his own classics like "Donna," "Frenchette" and "Girls." As always, there was an intoxicating, celebratory atmosphere to his show, one in which everyone comes out a little drunk on rock 'n' roll.
Opening was D.C.'s Tommy Keene Group, which turned in an impressive set of hook-laden hard pop. With his adenoidal vocals floating in a sea of echo, Keene granted his original tales of suburban anomie a brooding, introspective character with the help of his heavily orchestrated and shimmering guitar parts. Unfortunately, Keene's songs are of such a piece musically and conceptually that over the set they tended to lose some of their distinctiveness.