It should be wearing thin by now. But the shtick is so comfy and the muscianship is so deep that David Johansen’s Buster Poindexter character just keeps getting more and more engaging. Charisma has poured from the iconic rocker ever since he fronted the New York Dolls. A flick of the wrist, a hand on a hip, an exaggerated roll of the eye – the minor details add up to big fun with Poindexter, a natty veteran of lounges and bars with the savvy and skills to bond rumba nuggets, English music hall ditties and doo-wop jewels into one of the most entertaining rock ‘n’ roll shows around. “We play allll the genres,” he said in a sweetly ironic voice at the Cafe Carlyle on Tuesday night. Diverse on paper, they all sound related in Buster’s hands.
The kick-off show for his current Carlyle run was a typical hoot, loaded with swing, guided by mischief and driven by the storm of a voice Johansen still has at the age of 65 (looks pretty damn sharp in that six-inch pompadour and those tailored threads, too). Summoning the vitality of H-Bomb Ferguson’s R&B growl and Illinois Jacquet’s sax roar, the singer bounced through Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” and anticipated next week’s Fat Tuesday parties with Prof. Longhair’s “Her Mind Is Gone.” The band cooked without getting overly rowdy and the music brimmed with an addictive verve.
The between-song patter and jokes have always been a Poindexter forte, and both were sublime thanks to Johansen’s natural theatricality. The show had a little Valentine’s Day resonance as well, and after a several tunes about heartbreak and lust, he dropped into “Don’t Mess With Cupid” and quipped “the last time I played that I was wearing a dress.” Mercer Street ain’t exactly next door to the Carlyle, but Johansen’s a longstanding musical polyglot whose varied interests always seem part of a rather profound whole. And, hey, anyone who drops “South American Joe” on a Tuesday night knows what life’s all about.
He’s there through Feb 21. You need to be there, too.