Live at CBGB’s 1977 is The Dead Boys in their prime, tearing up the stage at CBGB’s with a reckless abandon few have been able to equal since. Lead-singer Stiv Bators, in particular, works the stage with an animalistic intensity similar to Iggy Pop. Sure the sound and picture are muddy, but considering the lack of good live recordings from the early years of punk, we should be happy this DVD even exists. The ten song set whizzes by like an out of control freight train, but not before showing that, beneath the vicious exterior, The Dead Boys had a strong pop sensibility which made their songs memorable. In gentler hands, some may have even gotten on the radio!
The bonus features are as interesting as the actual performances. Interviews with the band from back in the day, and recent interviews with guitarist Cheetah Chrome and manager/CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal provide some historical perspective. In his segment, Chrome, who looks surprisingly together after decades of hard living, provides an honest look back at what brought the band together (love of music, and playing in front of a crowd) and what tore them apart (drugs, and a lackluster sophomore album). There’s also completely incongruous bonus footage of an awful band called The Steel Tips playing live at CBGB’s from the same era.
Stiv Bators death after being hit by a bus in Paris in 1990 has pretty much done away with any prospects of a reunion, but this DVD provides all the proof needed that The Dead Boys were a powerhouse live band with the rare ability to visually shock and revolt audiences while at the same time inspiring them to sing and dance along.