The Dresden Dolls shift into harder-rockin’ mode
GETTING OFF: No surprise that Amanda Palmer names “First Orgasm” as her most personal Dresden Dolls song to date.
The first thing you’d have noticed about the Dresden Dolls’ CD-release show at the Orpheum April 21 was how different it felt to be seated in a theater while the duo played. Instead of seeing a bouncer every time you turned around, you’d see a street performer or a human statue draped across the staircase. Outside, on Hamilton Place, a convoy of fortune tellers, hopscotchers, and accordion players greeted the crowd. Inside, there were so many exotically dressed types, it was hard to tell the band’s associates from their fans. For one night, Dolls singer/pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione had turned the often impersonal Orpheum into a weird, creative free-for-all.
Anyone who likes to write the Dresden Dolls off as some kind of art-school project had all the evidence right there. But when they took the stage, the carnival atmosphere dropped away like a curtain and the Dolls revealed themselves to be a rock-and-roll band — and an especially fine one. Perhaps looking to play down their theatrical side, they took the stage relatively dressed-down: Viglione wore his whiteface and Palmer her striped stockings, but both were in T-shirts.
It was a lesson in what two years on the road can do for a band’s dynamics. There were torchy moments where Palmer stretched out, and some campy theatrics when Rounder kiddie act Girl Authority joined on the closing “Sing.” But when the Dolls shifted into harder-rocking mode — which they did for much of the set — the sound was aggressive verging on furious. Viglione led off the opening “Sex Changes,” the lead track on the new Yes, Virginia . . .(Roadrunner), by pounding the drumsticks over his head in a classic clap-along gesture. Programmed early on, The Dresden Dolls’ “Coin Operated Boy” was greeted like any hit single, with fans cheering the opening chords and singing along throughout. The new “Backstabber” — a slam at local in-crowd-ism — found Palmer doing throaty shrieks and pounding the hell out of her piano in a primal display of punk attitude. She may have Kurt Weill’s name stenciled on her keyboard (a result of her messing with the Kurzweil logo), but it could just as easily be Jerry Lee Lewis’s.
The big surprise was an acoustic break midway through the show, with two cover tunes, Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam” and T. Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer.” Both are rooted in the glitter era (David Bowie did the Brel tune in the ZiggyStardust movie), a period in which the Dolls would seem to have fit in comfortably. Who believes that the gender bending of Bowie and Bolan made them any less sexy, or that their theatricality made them any less rock-and-roll?
: Music Features
, Dresden Dolls, Paul Kolderie, Kurt Weill, More