A couple of years ago, I went to see a performance by Chip Taylor without really knowing what to expect. I left the show very impressed and glad I got to see a classic singer-songwriter. This week I had the opportunity to see Buster Poindexter, the alter-ego of David Johansen, a singer-songwriter who was part of the early-punk band New York Dolls, at Café Carlyle, the spot where Woody Allen is known to play jazz flute. I went into this performance knowing only that he does a rendition of the perennial calypso favorite “Hot Hot Hot”. I left thoroughly entertained and amazed, thinking, ‘wow, wow, wow’.
Poindexter and his backing band dipped their toes into various genres; as he put it the band played some “blues, a little jazz, some doo-wop, some rumba, some more doo-wop… maybe two or three more doo-wops, but… there is one genre we haven’t covered and that’s English music hall”. Before he explained why not. The set included songs like “Eight Men, Four Women”, an O.V. Wright cover, “Monkey” by Harry Belafonte and “South American Joe” by Cliff Friend and Irving Caesar. The performance was primarily musical but Poindexter continued entertaining between songs. He shared somewhat corny jokes with very well-delivered punch-lines that made the audience roar with laughter, like the one about a schmuck who wanted a head of lettuce or the story about a high society woman he met.
Of course Poindexter brought the house down with a burning performance of “Hot Hot Hot”, whose rhythm propelled him off the stage and parading through the audience, with his wife in tow, so he could meet his fans. Returning to the stage, Poindexter explained how it would really be appropriate if he left and returned should the audience applaud accordingly. However the intimacy of the cabaret space made it difficult to traverse so he stayed put and told the audience to keep it a secret before he went into an extended take on his own song “Heart of Gold”, where each band member got the opportunity to solo.
Whether Buster Poindexter remains an alter-ego or the cabaret persona now fully subsumes David Johansen, the lounge lizard currently holding reign at Café Carlyle leads an awesome evening of cabaret.
Setlist for 10/22/14:
Viper (Stuff Smith)
Bad Boy (Avon Long, Lil Hardin Armstrong)
New York’s My Home (Gordon Jenkins)
Monkey (Harry Belafonte)
My Old Man (Fred W. Leigh, Charles Collins)
Down in Mexico (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)
Do Something for Me (Jackie Wilson, Clyde McPhatter)
Her Mind is Gone (Professor Longhair)
Nobody (Bert Williams)
I Believe in You (Frank Loesser)
I Shot Mr Lee (The Bobbettes)
Shoppin’ for Clothes (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Kent Harris)
South American Joe (Cliff Friend, Irving Caesar)
Eight Men, Four Women (O.V. Wright)
Pink Champagne (Joe Liggins)
The Tattooed Lady (Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane, John Stewart)
The King is Gone (Ronnie McDowell)
Rocket 88 (Jackie Brenston)
Stay as Sick as you Are (Katie Lee)
Hot Hot Hot (Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell)
Heart of Gold (David Johansen)