The Dresden Dolls Come To Life For Earth Day
Cabaret Rock at Its Finest
The Dresden Dolls
May 2, 6:00 p.m.
The rapid drop in temperature, the dark clouds hovering above, and the blasts of wind really didn’t put me in the mood to go outside. Ha, and this was an MIT Earth Day sponsored event! I was hoping to walk over to Kresge Oval and find the show rained out so that I could go back to my dorm room and continue failing to do anything productive. Good thing I didn’t get what I initially wanted. There on the oval and inside a tent were the Dresden Dolls, ready to play in rain or shine.
The Dresden Dolls are a local duo consisting of Amanda Palmer on vocals/keyboard and Brian Viglione on drums/guitar/backing vocals. Despite there being only two members, the Dolls were diverse and very dynamic, as was the audience of fifty or so people. There were about three “interesting” people in the crowd who put on some of the craziest dancing I’ve ever seen. I’m just glad that none of them tried to touch me; I don’t think my last tetanus vaccination would’ve held up against that.
Both donning skirts, Palmer and Viglione played a set consisting of their songs and several covers, including an excellent rendition of Radiohead’s “Karma Police.” Most of the Dolls’ songs were keyboard and drum compositions that had strong hints of cabaret music from the early twentieth century. The point was driven home by Palmer’s deeply personal lyrics and superb voice that seamlessly altered from harsh to soothing to even whimsical tones. Don’t write her off as a Tori Amos or Vanessa Carlton wannabe, because Palmer is much more interesting and enjoyable and far less pretentious.
It was amazing watching Viglione at the drums. For one song he would thrash at the kit with such fury that you’d expect the entire thing to explode with pieces flying off in all directions, and then for another song he would calmly sit and make the most precise taps on the cymbals as if he were putting the final delicate touches on a painting.
The amount of emotion and energy that the Dolls put into their songs was invigorating. The best song of the set was “Coin Operated Boy,” a Dolls original in which Palmer bitterly yet playfully imagines owning a boy who would suit her every need: “Made of plastic and elastic / he is rugged and long-lasting / who could ever ask for more / love without complications galore.”
Not only were they musicians but the Dolls were also excellent performers, using their burlesque appearance to the fullest. They constantly talked and joked with the audience. Before one song, Palmer said that they were going to perform “a song that will make everyone love us,” and Viglione immediately raised his fist in the air and shouted, “Mamma can I go out and kill tonight!!!” No, it wasn’t a Misfits cover but rather “The Rainbow Connection” of Kermit the Frog fame. It was a nice and rather humorous performance that had a two-minute introduction because Viglione flubbed his guitar chords and turned his error into comic relief.
Palmer remarked that it was strange playing a show in the daylight, and that it felt like “we gotta play better.” Good. Keep on playing in the daylight. Here’s hoping that the Dresden Dolls go far.