Last night I attended the Dresden Dolls show at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, and it was one of the best rock shows I have experienced in my life.
The night began quietly, but with a sense of mischief. While the audience gathered to hear the opening acts, two performance artists wandered about the venue. One was an accordion player with black clown hair, another a tall blond woman, both dressed in formal wear from the ’20s. He would play and she would dance. The accordion player would climb over the seats to play, even sitting in the lap of one of the women sitting near me to perform a number.
The first act of the night was Faun Fables, which was only really so-so. While her voice was absolutely amazing, her stage presence left quite a bit to be desired. I can’t really speak to her songwriting abilities because her vocal style made it difficult to follow her lyrics, which is particularly dangerous for a solo singer-songwriter. It was an enjoyable performance but nothing to get me excited.
The second act was DeVotchKa, and they made me smile. I had never heard of this band before, but they were simply amazing. They brought the night to life and had the audience dancing. Their bizarre blend of Mediterranean and Gypsy influences along with their eclectic instrumentation reminded me a little bit of Paris Combo, except more rocking with a dash of punk, less cutesy while being more introspective and, well, not French.
Near the end of their set, the vocalist Nick Urata, told the audience, “Okay, we have a couple more songs for you guys and then we’ll get out of your hair.” The collective sound of disappointment from the audience (“Awwww”) brought a smile to his face. “That’s sweet of you.”
Seriously, run, don’t walk, to your nearest record store on the off-chance they may be able to supply you with one of their albums. I ran out during the break to buy all of their albums from their stand in the lobby.
During the break, the performance artists returned again to perform acrobatics with a large hoop on the dance floor to the excitement of us all.
I have to admit I was nervous at this point. I love the Dresden Dolls, but how could they follow up an opening act like DeVotchKa? It takes balls to let a band that amazing open for you. How were the Dolls going to pull it off and not get blown off the stage?
After all, DeVotchKa burned down the fucking house.
The Dresden Dolls, however, rebuilt the house, had it assessed, and then burned it down all over again. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione were in amazing form, and I was impressed with their showmanship. They easily shared the stage with one another, and Viglione’s performance, complete with comedic poses at dramatic moments left the audience in stitches. Also, he seemed to possess an infinite supply of drumsticks as he would often punctuate points in the music by tossing the set he was using away in the air and pulling two more from some hidden bag of drummer goodies. Palmer’s vocals were as strong as ever, and her sense of humor as she bantered with the audience was wonderful.
The Dolls took back the stage and made it their own, and their knack for dramatic pauses to increase tension had the audience howling with enthusiasm. I must confess that today my throat is a little sore from all the “woo”-ing. During their act, several performance artists returned to share the stage. Whether it was silent jealous brides during The Perfect Fit, an acrobatic act hanging from suspended fabric during Gravity, or the appearance of twisted cheerleaders during Girl Anachronism it was a night to remember.
There were too many notable songs and performances to describe here in this review, but I can say that if you pass up a chance to see the Dresden Dolls on tour this year, you are a fool. It may be the best concert you see this decade.
See the show? Agree/Disagree? Think I am full of it? Leave a comment!