Cabaret Review & Photos: JK Clarke


Few musicians survived the 1970s Punk era intact. And even fewer went on to reinvent themselves time and time again the way singer, actor and showman David Johansen did. Following his role as founding member of iconic glam punk band, The New York Dolls, Johansen became Buster Poindexter, and appeared in movies like Scrooged (with Bill Murray) and as an integral part of the Saturday Night Live house band during one of the height of its popularity in the 1980s. Now, many iterations later, he is returning to the Carlyle Café for a five-night residency from October 21-25.

JKC_141021_0443At his opening show last night, Poindexter gave a knockout performance along with his yet unnamed, magnificent band (whom he said he’d like to call, “The Boys in the Boys in the Band” –  Brian Koonan (guitar), Clifford Carter (piano), Richard Hammond (upright bass) and the very entertaining Ray Grappone (drums).

Poindexter once said, “Every singer who’s worth his salt is an actor. You play different characters in different songs.” He’s worth his salt. He broke into each song with a story or a joke, starting off with lines like, “A guy walks into a greengrocer . . .” but the jokes were always funny, usually unexpected, and led into a ditty just as amusing: “Don’t know what to say the monkey won’t do . . .” He’s a smarter Henny Youngman, with the  beautiful, velvety voice of Mel Tormé.

After all these years the man can sing like none other – songs like “Down in Mexico,” “Nobody,” “I Shot Mr. Lee.” The selections ranged from ballads (The King is Gone, Eight Men Four Women) to up-tempo (Pink Champagne, Monkey) to rumbas to “English dance hall,” as he put it, and every single one was a winner, with “Heart of Gold” a highlight as the closer. As a slick lounge singer with his famous hair stacked high, smoky glasses, a couple buttons open on his tie-less shirt and framed by a stylish tuxedo jacket he was a suave element in the elegant Café Carlyle. Poindexter and the band had the crowd mesmerized and joyous in a show that was smooth, cool and hip. This is a show that’s not to be missed, whether you’re an ardent fan or just casually familiar.
Buster Poindexter. October 21-25 at The Cafe Carlyle, 35 East 76th Street at Madison Avenue).