Written by Samuel Barker
May 30, 2008 at 09:00 PM
ImageIt is not a rare occassion that people walk out of a show and think they’ve seen a real life coming of a mesiah, but after a couple days, the euphoria is gone and they are no longer that impressed. It is for that reason, I wanted to wait a while before I wrote the review for the Dresden Dolls’ show at Warehouse Live.

At the conclusion of the show, I felt moved; genuinely moved. I wasn’t seeing a band, I was seeing music fanatics on stage playing their hearts out. It was what made me get fall in love with punk rock when I was a kid, it is what made me want to pick up an instrument and make noise of my own. You weren’t seeing bravado, ego and pretense, you were seeing a very real expression of labor and love. The audience was a part of the show as much as the band. Even the opener, Smoosh, spent a great deal of time on stage during the Dolls’ set. It felt like what you hear old musicians refer to as “the good times,” and it was happening now, not 40 years ago. It was artists making music, it was your peers doing something amazing, it was life at its finest. This was one of the few times in my life that I felt as involved in the spectacle when I wasn’t performing.

It would be simple to dismiss this as some fanboy crush, I can understand that line of reasoning, but if you have not seen this band live, you cannot make that judgment. To me, this is what live music is supposed to be about: no barricades, no separation and pure emotion.

As the Dolls’ set began, the venue was filled with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, which gave way to Darth Vader’s March and then the band hit the stage.

Vocalist/pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer/vocalist Brian Viglione moved through the darkness dressed like SS soldiers and kicked into In The Flesh, form Pink Floyd’s The Wall. This was interesting, in a good way, as you looked through the audience of people in costume, while they did the rant about the audience. A nice bit of humor to start the night.

One of the fun parts of the night was the band’s willingness to step outside their own catalog and all over their own for songs. Despite their new release, No Virginia, hitting shelves less than 2 weeks before, the band only touched on 3 songs from that release. Instead bringing a pretty even mix of songs from all releases and covers.

As they finished In The Flesh, the costumes were removed and their first single, Girl Anachronism, kicked off the night with a fury that quickly quieted down for Missed Me, a quite disturbing tale of a young girl using jail as a motivator to keep her over-aged lover. It is sordid tales and awkward imagery that make Palmer’s songs so enthralling. There is rarely a standard format nor bubble gum moments. Even when the music songs its most accessible, the lyrics paint some interesting landscapes.

The best moment of the night, for me, was the cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Two-Headed Boy. Viglione strapped on an acoustic and Palmer abandoned her piano for stripped down version of the song. The two carry themselves with something that can only be described as genuine love. Not the romantic, fleeting type, but the kind that would make your life feel hollow if the other one wasn’t there. The visual of Palmer running her hand down Viglione’s back while singing “And they’ll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine” was touching.

Following that with The Gardener, which saw Palmer carrying a flower and mixing with the audience throughout the venue, the audience and band were definitely together for the remainder of the set. A pretty intense 180 in mood came as Viglione strapped on a Les Paul, Palmer got on the drums and Maia of Smoosh came out to play bass for a cover of the Beastie Boys’ Fight for Your Right. The stage was quickly filled with people dancing, drinking and singing along to this classic. It was the proverbial joke at a wake, it was okay to have fun again and dance like a fool.

ImageThe show closed with another fine moment. Beth Hommel, Palmer’s assistant, was celebrating her birthday on this night and was dragged out on stage, presented with a cake and a rousing rendition of the classic happy birthday song. As to be expected, the cake ended up in mouths, in the audience, on faces and the floor. Another act of friendship amongst all in attendance. Hommel chose Truce as her request for this night and the audience was treated to this classic. Definitely a perfect way to say good night to everyone.

Opening the show was Smoosh. There is something about children in a band that comes off hokey at first. I don’t care who you are, you hear that and you instantly think, “oh great, nice gimmick…can they play?”

The answer is, yes. Chloe, the drummer, was one of the most solid drummers I’ve seen in a band period. Being on tour with someone as amazing as Viglione will only make her stronger. Pianist/vocalist Asya showed wonderful skill as she jumped between keyboards, a theramin and a melodica. For only the 2 of them with the occassional appearance of their sister, Maia, the room was filled with sound and the songs stuck in your head.

The only negative I could find in their set was a lack of connection with the audience, but as they get more comfortable being up on stage in front of virtual strangers, that will change. The confidence of age helps feel more at home in this environment. When they achieve that, things can go nowhere but up.

Dresden Dolls Set:
In The Flesh (Pink Floyd)
Girl Anachronism
Missed Me
Night Reconnaissance
Mrs. O
Ultima Esperanza
Coin Operated Boy
Two-Headed Boy (Neutral Milk Hotel)
The Gardener
Fight for your Right (Beastie Boys)
Astronaut (from upcoming solo album)
Karma Police (Radiohead)
Mein Heir (Cabaret)