Buster Poindexter – Café Carlyle, New York, NY 2/10/15 (SHOW REVIEW)

Buster Poindexter sang his heart out during a pre-Valentine’s Day set at the Café Carlyle on Tuesday, reviving R&B, doo-wop, and soul covers on the first night of a two-week residency at the New York supper club.

The performance marked David Johansen’s latest return as the slick, smarmy lounge-singer character he created in the ’80s, a conceit far removed from his lipstick-and-high-heels days with the New York Dolls. After leading his jazz band through Otis Redding’s “Don’t Mess With Cupid,” Poindexter grinned and sipped from a glass. “The last time I sang that song,” he told the room, “I was wearing a dress!”

Many were old enough to remember. And thirty years ago, when a tuxedoed Poindexter emerged on Monday nights at Tramps on East 15th Street, they could catch him for $12; this week, at the swankier Carlyle, where gloved waiters poured Chianti and served Arctic char, premium seating runs $120, jacket required.


For his second residency here since October, Poindexter sticks to a familiar setlist of obscure ballads, ranging from Bert Williams’s turn-of-the-century “Nobody” to Fats Waller’s ode to marijuana, “If You’re A Viper.” Such choices reveal Poindexter’s fondness for Black roots music and its richness for clever wordplay and vocal tics. He’d quickly follow up with a dry, if morbid, one-liner: “Suicide is the greatest expression of self-criticism,” Poindexter noted at one point, shrugging as he took another sip.

With his trademark pompadour, crooked wit, and flair for vaudevillian timing, Poindexter remains a charismatic showman at 65, a master of the stage and a capable bandleader. The guitarist, Brian Koonin, is a longtime partner of Johansen’s. The lineup—pianist Clifford Carter, drummer Ray Grappone, and Mark Vanderpoel on standup bass—commands a landscape of genres, including Harry Belafonte’s calypso classic “Monkey”; the “Yabba dabba doo” country hook of George Jones’s “The King Is Gone”; even the obligatory party anthem that established Poindexter in 1987, “Hot Hot Hot.”

He rarely plays that hit, but relented with an exaggerated frown. “Oh God,” he repeated in faux agony, finally giving in, grabbing a pair of maracas, and wriggling his frame off the stage and onto the floor.

Photos by Michael Wilhoite

Related Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide