Buster Poindexter Subversive at the Café Carlyle

In case you were wondering about his rocker roots, David Johansen can be seen in a photograph flashing amidst many images in the documentary Robert Frank--Don't Blink. In fact, he was a star in Frank's 1988 Candy Mountain back in the New York Dolls days, along with Tom Waits, Leon Redbone, Dr. John, Joe Strummer, and Kazuko. Today performing at the Café Carlyle, in a pencil thin 'stache worthy of John Waters and his signature pompadour, as Buster Poindexter, he's no less of a star. In fact, he's transitioned effortlessly onto the intimate uptown cabaret stage with a witty, smart show, sprinkling song with jokes, backed by a first rate band: Brian Koonin on guitar, Richard Hammond on upright bass, Ray Grappone on drums, and Brian Mitchell on piano and accordion. Poindexter adds to his own raspy voice with a cool harmonica.

"Volare," "Dance With Me," "Piece of My Heart," "Desiree," "Seven Deadly Virtues," "Deep in a Dream," "Gangster of Love," and "Heart of Gold" were some of the highlights of the set, and his mad self-effacing humor can go far, describing a Japanese man who experienced both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but when asked, what did you think of the show, replies, "Worst thing I ever saw." Or, what are critics, he asks, answering, "They go into the battlefield and shoot the wounded." On the night we attended, a drunken, loud fan kept requesting his signature "Hot Hot Hot," that mainstay of bar mitzvahs and weddings alike, which he usually performs in a conga line threading through the tables. Wasn't gonna happen, and yet the rousing tune remained a presence in absence for a totally fun evening.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.