Word on the street – well, the Dogs D’Amour Mailing List – was that last night’s Crybabys show was going to be packed to bursting point: “The Crybabys’ reunion gig at the Garage in London is close to an 800 sell-out. Fans are urged to buy their tickets now to avoid disappointment!”
I was doubtful. As much as I’d have loved it to be true, when I walked into the venue at 8pm, I saw what I expected to see: a dozen people up-front watching one of the supports and about 30 people in the bar area. By the time the headline set kicked off, the numbers had swelled to around 100, but the Garage still looked bigger than I’d seen it in years.
The show was billed as a ‘Johnny Thunders Memorial’ – the legendary and much-imitated New York Dolls guitarist died 15 years ago this weekend – but the tributes from the stage were few and far between. Only one of the bands, Mad Dogs ‘N’ Glory – a furious Hellacopters-like quintet and the most entertaining support by a mile – had a sense of occasion, opening their set with One Track Mind and namechecking Thunders a few times to coax a response from the crowd: “If Johnny Thunders was here tonight, he wouldn’t be standing at the back; he’d be down here rocking!”
I wouldn’t bank on that. Every rock star I’ve ever seen at a gig has spent the evening at the bar, but it was a good try.
Of course, The Crybabys did their bit, too, dedicating Sad Souvenir, their song about Thunders from their What Kind Of Rock ‘N’ Roll? album, to Johnny as well as Nikki Sudden, who died last month. It was one of the more memorable moments from a set that, while enjoyable enough, didn’t really catch fire.
The setlist was solid, with the majority of songs coming from their classic debut album, but the band seemed a bit under-rehearsed at times, and some of the energy and spark that they had in the early Nineties was missing – a probable side effect of not being a working band any more. For my money, their best performance was a song from John’s new album, which I hadn’t heard yet. This caught me by surprise.
As reunions go, this one was a little short, the (headlining) set only just scraping 40 minutes with no encore. It would have been nice to round things off with a couple of covers – in the circumstances, I’d have thought that Pills was a must-play – but the band made a hasty exit and the stagehands drew the curtains before the audience had time to put a single pair of hands together.
The verdict? It was nice to see John and Darrell sharing a stage again, but it didn’t feel like the glorious comeback that The Crybabys deserve. As for Johnny Thunders… he’ll survive.