Concert Review: Morrissey and The New York Dolls

The king of mope Morrissey and the queens of the street The New York Dolls combined for an awesome one-two punch.

Morrissey 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Morrissey 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Morrissey, The New York Dolls and Assaf Avidan Tel Aviv Fairgrounds July 29 The varied treasures of rock and roll were on display Tuesday night at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall, when the king of mope Morrissey and the queens of the street The New York Dolls combined for an awesome one-two punch. Following an opening set by local sensation Assaf Avidan, the Dolls gave a lesson in garage rock 101, which left some of the younger members of the packed audience who had been raised on slick studio sounds and preening video a little dismayed. Pretending that the stage was their personal Max's Kansas City, original members David Johansen and Syl Sylvain, along with the reconstituted Dolls, plowed through old classics like "Lookin' For A Kiss" and "Trash," tunes from their 2006 reunion album, like the power pop of "Dancing on the Lip of a Volcano," and well-placed covers like Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart." Despite sound problems that probably damaged some ear drums, it was gratifying to watch legends who haven't lost a step, and on the contrary, are perhaps performing better than ever. If the Dolls were an exercise in shambolic looseness, Morrissey was the epitome of showbiz precision. But his gift was the ability to transform that as-well-rehearsed-as-Broadway script into an evocative and emotional event. Always a dapper fashion plate, the former Smiths vocalist bared his well-sculpted chest no less than five times, stripping off a series of sweat-soaked button-down shirts (and one red Playboy T-shirt). His riveting presence sharply contrasted the great lack of personality of his young, anonymous five-piece band, which looked like it had walked out of a frat house and onto the stage. But looks can be deceiving, because with the sound level down from the Dolls' 11 out of 10, it was clear that the band was smoking. And Morrissey, one of rock's most accomplished vocalists and lyricists, simply astounded with the quality of his voice. Despite a momentary lapse when he couldn't reach a high note and sheepishly pointed to his throat, Morrissey otherwise shined. Tunes like the opening "Last of the Famous International Playboys," "The World is Full of Crashing Bores" and "First of the Gang to Die" jumped off the stage into the audience, led by Morrissey's incredibly intense performance. While the crowd ate up the material from his solo career, it was the nuggets from The Smiths' oeuvre that set people over the top. And choice morsels they were - "Vicar in a Tutu," the sole encore of "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," a delicately moving "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" and a mesmerizing "Death of a Disco Dancer," with its repeatedly built-up chorus of "Love, peace and harmony? Oh, very nice, very nice, very nice, very nice... but maybe in the next world." And of course, an incendiary "Bigmouth Strikes Again" with the band, finally loosening up a la the Dolls, served up some ear-splitting, out-of-this-world space noise. The reception Morrissey received proved the old adage that misery loves company. Having a few thousand enraptured fans swaying and lovingly singing along to lines like "Life is a pig sty," "If a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die" and "Every day is like Sunday, every day is silent and gray" gave new meaning to the term "shared experience."