There is nothing more punk rock than going to a five hour show on a Tuesday night in the middle of nowhere. Now, those of you who live in South Jersey might disagree with my sentiment toward Asbury Park, but having lived in New Jersey for over thirty years, I have only gone to Asbury Park for some kind of show and admittedly, Asbury Park is a far cry better than most of South Jersey, especially after the last decade of improvements.
I was fencish about going to see the Sex Dolls at Asbury Lanes, since Asbury Park is not the easiest place to get to after leaving the Parkway and I'm not really a New York Dolls fan. But when I heard Vic Ruggiero was joining Sammy Kay to open the show, I was priced in, as I have a hard time saying no to seeing Vic Ruggiero do anything.
So, I arrive at Asbury Lanes in a timely fashion and was able to park my car just in front of the place, which was a little worrying. Admittedly, the crowd for the night would best be described as intimate, but when you put on an acoustic punk rock show in New Jersey on a Tuesday night, that is always a risk.
Sammy Kay opens the show, accompanied by Vic Ruggiero and one of the members of the Fast Four. I previously saw Sammy Kay with the Fast Four at Skalapalooza in 2012 and was not left impressed, though admittedly, that was a very long show for a Sunday and I was there to see Edna's Goldfish and the Pilfers. In the interim, I heard a few of his other tracks and liked the sound, so I figured it was worth seeing him again. Admittedly, even if I hated his work in the interim, knowing Vic Ruggiero would be there was enough to get me to attend. This time, Sammy Kay was much better. I would say the set was the second best of the entire night, as the music was far slower, more stripped down and traditional. Vic mostly played the harmonica and sang on a few tracks, but that was more than sufficient to get me to pay $17 for a night of live music.
They were followed by Dez Cardona and Penny Farthings. I can tell you they played a Velvet Underground cover, there was a bit where Dez played the guitar riff from Third Stone from the Sun by Jimi Hendrix, but otherwise, it was an interchangeable band, since I am not a Black Flag fan, which I suspect was most of the allure.
Finally, as 11 PM hit, Sylvain Sylvain hit the stage. Not being a New York Dolls fan, I was not expecting much, but admittedly was blown away by Sylvain. He had a stage presence which was undeniable. Working the small room, he played a lot of fan service songs from his New York Dolls era, which ended up being quite good stripped down and told stories. He told stories and spoke to the crowd a lot like your dirty old uncle, who can captivate a room, which is exactly what Sylvain did. With each song, I enjoyed his work more, because he knew how to make it personal to the audience. Without hesitation, I would recommend seeing the Sex Dolls tour, just to see Sylvain Sylvain unless you absolutely hate the New York Dolls.
With Sylvain departing after a 40 minute set, Glen Matlock hit the stage. I felt bad for Glen, as he looked out to a mostly empty room, following someone who knew how to play the fans for what they were worth. Glen is a fine musician, in fact, for someone who was the bassist for the most infamous of punk rock bands, he is a perfectly find guitarist. Sadly, for Glen, he doesn't have the same way with the crowd that Sylvain does. Also, Glen was very insistent on playing a lot of songs from his own album, which probably one person in the room heard before last night. Towards the middle of the set, he engaged us with an acoustic version of God Save the Queen which was technically good and exciting, but it also reminded you the signature sound of the Sex Pistols is Johnny Rotten's sneering vocals. Actually, this is also the reason there are no good covers of Sex Pistols songs, because the sound is not in the notes, but the voice. We meandered along for another 20 minutes, with Stepping Stone by the Monkees popping up for the fans in the audience. Glen closed with Pretty Vacant, which was actually better than God Save the Queen and really got the fans going for their joint encore.
The encore was Bang a Gong by T-Rex and Personality Crisis by the New York Dolls. They invited all of the women in the front area up on stage and the four of them still in the club and at the front gamely joined them. It closed the show strong and really showcased the personality gap between Sylvain, who was once again phenomenal and Glen, who admittedly is just a bloke like the rest of us, just with the fortune to be part of one of the most famous musical acts of all time.
In all, it was a good show and would recommend the tour. Sylvain is a real professional who understands audiences and deserved to be playing before a bigger house than was at Asbury Lanes last night.