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Dresden Dolls

3rd November saw me at the Roundhouse for the second consecutive night, this time to see the The Dresden Dolls.

Now, I've been to a few gigs in my time, especially over the last few years, but I can truly say this was one of the oddest. Some of the oddness I can understand, some I still can't get my head around!

I've never been to a gig before where the first thing you see is everyone in the main hall gathered around a huge circle as a man spins himself around in a big hoop! I'd read before the gig that The Dresden Dolls like the show to be more than just the music, and that was certainly my first evidence of that!

The gig was MCed by Margaret Cho, a US comedienne. She introduced a number of support 'acts', some of which were music based, and all were fabulous in their own way!

Roughly in order of appearance;

Cirque-Eloize with a range of different things, musical, dance and visual performances that were very impressive (they popped up several times through the evening (including with the Dolls)

The Red Paintings, who are as their last.fm entry has them: experimental art rock; as well as singing a number of really good songs there was body painting and canvas painting going on in the background while Trash sang in front, wearing a very interesting coat. His vocal, and to a degree songs, reminded me a little of Kurt Cobain.

I think then we had Zen Zen Zo, who would probably get called performance artists, except I hate that phrase (all performance is arte, and all art, performance). They too were excellent (can you spot the trend yet?)

Next up was Baby Dee who performed some quite remarkable songs, and its always good to see a harp on stage!

Then came Jason Webley. hard to know what to say about Jason really. I really enjoyed it, certainly he reminded me in places of Tom Waits, especially in his Rain Dogs phase, but equally mixed in with Germanic and East European, gypsy sounds and rhythms. Possibly the highlight was The Drinking Song, where he got the audience to increase their drunkenness by getting the audience to hold your arm up, point up in the air, look at your finger and spin round 12 times. Unsurprisingly, it works!

There were also some films being shown, but i couldn't see them from where i was sat (I think by The Whoopee Agency)

Then the main event. I'm quite new to the Dresden Dolls, though I've been listening to Yes, Virginia... this week, and indeed on the way to the gig, so I had a good few songs in my head.

They just blew me away. Apart from Brian being an incredibly attractive guy, his drumming is just something else. I've always been someone who watches drummers playing, and I frequently drum on my knees etc listening to music, and I found him just incredible and often struggled to take my eyes off him!

Amanda Palmer's piano playing was frenzied and inspired, frightening on occasion, but also liberating and inspiring.

The performance was enhanced by support from Cirque Eloize, including some great acrobatics whilst dangling from a sheet suspended from the ceiling.

So many great songs, and some awesome performances, I can't really single any of them out as being especially brilliant, it just all was. The one track that did stand out (and only because it was a cover and performed with Trash McSweeney) was their cover of Gary Jules' Mad World (yes I know it's a Tears for Fears song, but this really was a cover of the Gary Jules version.

So, brilliant music and acts, but there was one thing about it that was odd. The audience.

There were 2 things that were odd.

Firstly, the audience never stopped talking. All through the support (which isn't unusual), but I don't think I've ever known so many people talking when the main act is on. Sure, you couldn't hear when the loud tracks were on, but as soon as the volume dropped, the audience babbling noise just reappeared, and didn't drop either. Very odd.

Now, I fully expected the hard-core Dolls fans to be there, lots of black, unusual clothes etc, and so they were. They weren't the odd part, in fact it would have been odd if they weren't there. No, the second odd things was the number of people who didn't seem to want to be there:

  • The couple in front of us who seemed to be on a date and paying no attention to the music

  • The incessant talkers

  • Most bizarrely, the couple in their late 50s sat a few seats up from us who sat there and didn't move for the entire time they were there- no smiling, no laughing, no clapping, just staring at the performances. They lasted until about the third song of the Dolls set and then left. I called them Mr and Mrs Middle England, and I'm sure they think the country's going to hell in a handbasket

I'm not sure if the weirdness of the audience enhanced the gig or not, but it didn't do any harm!

Without doubt the best gig I've ever been to. And I can see the Dresden Dolls shooting up my favourite artist list!


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