NEW YORK — “We all share a love for classic British rock, which served as the soundtrack of our youth,” said guitar maestro James Mastro about the All-Glam Band he assembled for “Wham Bam Thank You Glam!,” the exuberant, sold-out glam-rock tribute presented at City Winery, Nov. 30. The performers shook the windows and rattled the wine bottles, spreading joy and creative energy to their audience and bringing them to their feet many times.
Alive with colorful satin costumes, sequined hats and glitter face paint, these performers played music that brought the crowd to an emotional high, forgetting the rain falling outside, President T, climate change and gluten-free/no-carb diets for close to three hours.
This music sounded good and made you feel good. I was not alone. The audience was entranced by the visceral vibe of rock ‘n’ roll.
Co-producers and host/performers Joe Hurley and Edward Rogers welcomed a stellar lineup of artists to celebrate glam-rock’s impactful stars, including special guests Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper), Eugene Hutz (Gogol Bordello), Glenn Mercer (The Feelies), Suzanne Vega, Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group), Michael Cerveris, Suzi Ronson, Ellen Foley, Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Ricky Byrd (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts), Tish & Snooky, Shannon Conley, Derek Dempsey, Tammy Faye Starlite, Tricia Scotti, Carlton Jumel Smith and Mary Lee Kortes.
Mastro’s Glam Band members, including Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), Tony Shanahan (Patti Smith Group), Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project) and Kenny Margolis (Cracker), were tremendous all night long and carried us on our musical journey, backing many hot moments onstage, including Ranaldo’s exciting version of Bowie’s “Starman,” which engaged the crowd in a sing-a-long. Cerveris sang Mott the Hoople’s anthem “All the Young Dudes” to a gleeful audience, with Mastro making his guitar sing out; I was thinking that Mastro could play the song in the dark, given his touring schedule as a member of Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter’s band, and of Mott the Hoople itself.
Lenny Kaye screamed the prescient lyrics of Sweet’s “Teenage Rampage”: “All over the land, the kids are finally startin’ to get the upper hand/They’re out on the streets, they turn on the heat/And soon they could be completely in command.” I’m certain that many in the audience understood the lyrics in a different way now that we’ve lived life long past our own adolescent rage to watch the next generation rebel. Mercer belted out Reed’s “Vicious” with his customary explosive passion, causing the chandeliers to sway and the glitter to fly, and looking notably cool on stage. Hutz shared a captivating rendition of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz,” bringing the crowd to their feet.
Dunaway and Byrd brought the house down with their stellar rendition of Cooper’s “Under My Wheels”; Dunaway also played Cooper’s hit “Be My Lover.” Dunaway was in command on the stage with the same energy captured on videos of him from his days of fame.
Tish & Snooky gave a fabulous and colorful performance on The New York Dolls’ “Pills,” looking and sounding great. Tammy Faye Starlite sang The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” with full force and commitment.
Vega introduced Reed into the party with her version of “Walk on the Wild Side”; Hurley represented Marc Bolan well with his version of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy”; Rogers shared Slade’s “When the Lights Are Out.”
The show ended with a raucous finale of Slade’s 1973 hit “Merry Xmas Everybody” featuring Hurley, Rogers, the Glam Band and the entire crew.
Glam-rock, a term with an imprecise definition, is a very visual form of rock that embraced many musical forms, including bubblegum pop, art rock, cabaret, rockabilly, shock rock and others. Starting in industrial towns in the U.K. and in the heartland of the U.S. in the early 1970s, glam-rock shared a fashion imperative to be different via an androgynous style of clothing that challenged personal choices from within, truly following the ’60s adage that “the personal is political.”
Mastro noted that “growing up in rural New Jersey and suddenly discovering people wearing makeup and playing great rock songs was like seeing aliens land in your backyard. It made me aware that there was a huge world out there I hadn’t known about, and given that the artists were British, I learned a whole new language. This was a good textbook for me.”
He added that “coming off of Woodstock, glam artists like Bowie and Mott seemed more personal, deeper, challenging sexuality and norms. The focus was not to change the world first, but to change yourself.” He also credits glam with influencing future artists, including Patti Smith, Television and the Ramones.
Hurley shared thoughtful remarks about glam’s invasion of New York by recognizing Cindy Smith Dunaway, who toured with Alice Cooper from the inception of the band and is married to Dennis Dunaway. She introduced glam to the U.S. by creating the band’s look, which was later replicated by generations of
“We lived in the Hollywood Hills in the Glam Band house with my brother (Neal Smith, drummer for Alice Cooper),” said Smith Dunaway, who attended the show. “I suggested sparkles, glam, metallic fabrics. I started sewing and designing for the group.”
Smith Dunaway viewed herself as part of the team, and has been slow to get the credit she so deserved. Her hair, framed by beautiful pink highlights, is expertly colored with product from Manic Panic, where she now works with Tish & Snooky.
The visual picnic onstage and musical vitality held the concertgoers together after the event ended, chatting longer than my bedtime rituals allowed. Coming down from the musical buzz and lost in dreamy thoughts on my way home, I watched videos of Blondie, Bolan and Bowie and thought they would have really grooved on the evening’s vibe.
GLENN MERCER: “VICIOUS”
RICKY BYRD AND DENNIS DUNAWAY: “UNDER MY WHEELS”
EUGENE HUTZ: “BALLROOM BLITZ”