My lovely wife likes the Dresden Dolls quite a bit. So, being the ever-doting husband that I am, I got her this live show DVD (recorded in London) for Christmas this year, and we watched it recently. You know what? It’s pretty damn good.
The songwriting is excellent, with tight, focused tunes and lyrics that engage your brain. Who doesn’t love that combination? The live execution of the songs is interesting and highly professional. Amanda Palmer can really play the piano, and she can sing too. And Brian Viglione can definitely play the drums, no question. The pair do seem to be having fun with the music, and that counts for a lot. Really, there’s not much to dislike about this disc.
Except. Why do I always have a “but…”? Because I am who I am, suiting myself because I spent my precious life-time watching this. Look, there’s little to fault with this set of songs, but what the hell is with the side shows? OK, so I get that this duo’s music would tend to attract a crowd like that, with its tendency towards vaudeville, but the addition of these extra “artists” doesn’t enhance the show at all; in fact, it detracts from it. They call it a punk cabaret (even half-assedly ripping off the Stones’ Rock ‘N Roll Circus in the packaging), but it only seems like an after-thought. Mind you, this is based solely on what’s shown on the DVD of the show – there must’ve been quite a bit more going on somewhere else, judging by the list of other groups listed on the credits.
For example, we get one group of performers early on, swinging from banners mid-stage, so I think ‘great, they’ll be a back up band for an endless string of twirlers and tumblers. Whatever. This won’t be distracting at all (note the sarcasm).’ But then these performers disappear and we don’t see another (different) group until several songs later. And so it goes. One wonders what the hell purpose is being served. I mean, which is it? Are they a back-up band for other busker/performers, or are they a band in their own right who should let these high school art and drama class rejects be the opening act and then get down to the business of their own show?
I vote for the latter, wholeheartedly.
Oh, I know, I’m just insensitively shooting down the full-grown man in the corset, not accepting that he’s a fragile ‘artiste.’ I’m such a brute. Gimme a friggin’ break.
But, from seeing the front rows of the crowd when the camera swung that way, there are quite a few people in England who know every word to every song, and they really, really wanted those My Little Ponies on Amanda’s keyboard. It was not to be, alas. Look, what matters is the connection these two share, and the combined skill that they have at their disposal. Anyone this talented should have fans. And any band who can unabashedly quote Careless Whisper and the theme from Inspector Gadget in the same song has gotta get at least some props from me. Can you believe I just wrote those words? Well, I did! It must be getting very, very late…
There’s a couple of extra guests, too, including Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots (anybody remember them?), and Lene Lovich too. But they are tucked away in the Extras section so you have to go looking to find them.
I highly recommend you watch this DVD. But do your best to block out the bits that have nothing to do with the Dresden Dolls. This band could do without the silly baggage. Their excellent music, and the obvious prowess of their live performance, deserves far better.
01 Sex Changes
03 Modern Moonlight
04 Mrs. O
06 Coin-Operated Boy
07 Two-Headed Boy
08 Mandy Goes To Med School
09 Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner
11 The Jeep Song
12 Dirty Business
13 Shores Of California
15 Mein Herr
16 Mad World
17 Girl Anachronism
01 Missed Me (w. Edward Ka-Spel)
02 Delilah (w. Lene Lovich)
some documentary footage and interviews too