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  • Live Review: The Dresden Dolls - The Wiltern, LA

    Tue, 27 May 2008 06:49:05

    Live Review: The Dresden Dolls - The Wiltern, LA - Well Virgina....

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    Certain people should not wear angel wings. That's all that really needs to be said in regards to the, um, colorful crowd at The Wiltern in L.A. for The Dresden Dolls. It's really a beautiful thing that the audience covered a cross section of L.A.'s mainstream sub-cultures. Of course, there were the goth-club-hopping-manic-panic-popping set. That's a given. Then there were the "smart" metal kids who divide there time between listening to Tool, playing World of Warcraft and trying to paint. Lastly, there were those same hipsters that happen to be everywhere in L.A. but Velvet Revolver shows. Well, there were a few people that could've just gotten off work from The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland too, but they could've probably fit in one of the latter categories. Nevertheless, The Dresden Dolls were mind blowing. That's all the matters really. It's modern cabaret at its finest, and The Dolls never disappoint.

    The enigmatic Boston duo started off the show like a smoky film noir. Amanda Palmer (Vocals/Keyboards) and Brian Viglione (Drums/Guitars) took to the stage in WWII overcoats, and they assumed their positions at their respective instruments. The bombastic opening drum and keyboard instrumentation instantly pulled the packed crowd into their world. They then launched into a fiery rendition of "Girl Anachronism." Brian pounded away with a metallic precision and jazz virtuosity. He led the song into punk rock territory, speeding up the tempo. He played with near cock-rock flare, flipping sticks and swinging his hair in unison. Amanda matched his ferocity, singing faster and faster. Her voice steered the ship with a crescendo from melancholic heartache to hypnotic schizophrenia.

    The set drew heavily upon the band's latest release, No Virginia, a very solid collection of unreleased tracks and b-sides. Unlike most bands, this material was just as good as the songs that ended up on their albums. Before "Night Reconnaissance," Amanda quipped, "This song's about stealing garden gnomes." Dreden Dolls sparked the No Virginia single with a croon, and then kept the punk vibe alive, speedily ripping through the chorus. During "Mrs. O," Amanda crawled all over her keyboard as the melody crept slowly.

    In between songs, a smiley Amanda guzzled wine from a bottle, and the crowd cheered. She joked, "There are very few jobs where people cheer when you drink. That's the great thing about rock and roll." She's always aware and sharp, and it comes through in the banter and even more in her lyrics. Even though famed comedian Even though famed comedian Margaret Cho started the show by introducing Dresden with various dirty jokes, Amanda displayed the most keen sense of humor in the house. started the show by introducing Dresden with various dirty jokes, Amanda displayed the most keen sense of humor in the house. Right before "Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner," she asked if anybody had the time. It was in an effort to beat the venue's curfew, which the band would far exceed.

    Mid-set Amanda and Brian switched from their usual patented punk cabaret to an acoustic reprieve. "The Gardner" was simply haunting as Brian strummed the slow chords, and Amanda ventured into the crowd. The highlight of the slower fare was the pensive and dark rumination "Boston," which channeled the city's snowy gloom through long, orchestral keys and slow, funeral march drums. "Astronaut," from Amanda's forthcoming solo record, was equally haunting. Then there was a perfectly schizophrenic rendition of "Coin Operated Boy."

    Then there was that Dresden Dolls humor again. Amanda took her place behind the drum kit, and exclaimed, "Drums are sexy. I'm going to do my best Brian Viglione impression." She pounded away. Brian took center stage with an electric guitar and he sang Beastie Boys' classic "Fight for your Right." Margaret Cho hit the stage to dance with a bevy of Dresden friends and techs. It was the kind of fun you don't expect at a "Goth Show." One t-shirt at the merch booth summed up the night. It read, "Fuck the critics and the hipsters' stranglehold...long live punk cabaret." Everyone's welcome to rock out in the Dresden Dolls dark little world. Feel free to wear your angel wings.

    —Rick Florino

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