andrew burke





Dresden Dolls / Die Mannequin / Friendly Rich at the Phoenix

Posted on: 2008-01-05

Last night I went to see the Dresden Dolls play.

It was an all-ages show and they had to clear out before the club night started at 10, so the opening acts started as soon as the doors opened at 6:30. That meant that since I stood in line out front for half an hour I only caught one song from Friendly Rich & The Lollipop People - which was a shame since they seemed really entertaining in an eclectic deranged Tom Waits kind of way. They brought a huge ensemble on stage, including a harpist, a basson player in pirate clothes, a disconcertingly normal-looking clarinettist in a nice sweater, and a lewd clown with a permanent droop to his face and a collection of off-colour props and mannerisms. I would have liked to see more of them.

The second opening act was Die Mannequin, who brought their rawk (with a 'w'). Any lack of musical chops was completely made up for by the balls-out over the top Rock God performance of Care Failure, the lead singer and guitarist. She jumped around, struck awesome poses with her two great-looking guitars, flailed about on speakers and stage-side platforms, and in the last song charged out into the audience. The four songs they played all started like AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" and then went into fairly bland four-power-chord territory - maybe they should have just done some AC/DC covers, so we could just enjoy the manic rocking performance with songs we already know.

Amanda Palmer came out at the apocalyptic finale of their set and thrashed around on the cymbals and generally horsed around with the band.

The Dresden Dolls started their set in Generalissimo uniforms and military hats and started in with a cover of "In The Flesh" from Pink Floyd's The Wall. The fascist lyrics (on the album it's in a context of a nervous breakdown) were nicely undercut with "are there any queers in the theatre tonight?" getting about a fifth of the audience cheering in response.

The large crowd (sold out) sang along to most of the songs, but even if you don't know or like their music you can't deny that Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione are great live performers. He's a better musician, perhaps, but she's the creative force behind everything. They have a great spontaneous rapport and seem to be having a lot of fun (I think they're still early in the tour). They did their big popular songs, a new song from her upcoming solo album, a fun cover of the Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right" with Care Failure helping out on guitar (exactly her kind of song too - aggressive, loud, fun, and only four chords), and finished with an actual Cabaret-era song: "Mein herr", with Brain on acoustic guitar and Amanda vamping about at the footlights.

It was an all-ages show and the whole thing was done by ten o'clock - which was great: more short people not blocking my view, fewer drunken yobbos picking fights, and no waiting until after midnight for the title act to play and not getting home until 3am. We had to put up with a group of unbelievably vacuous teenage girls behind us in line while waiting to get in, but that's far from the worst I've had to deal with at a show.

However, just like at the Besnard Lakes / Young Galaxy show I saw a few months ago, it seemed like half the audience was too busy taking pictures and video of the show to actually watch anything. A guy next to me took a picture about every two minutes. Hey folks: those little snapshot and cellphone cameras aren't going to do much of a job in that kind of low-light, high-movement environment. Maybe take one or two pictures so you can have a reminder of the show - and then actually enjoy being there without any mediation!

All in all a good show - I hope they come back soon.

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