Dresden Dolls rock the house in Melbourne

band dresden dolls

The Forum is probably still shaking. The Dresden Dolls put out one hell of a lot of bass for a two-piece. With Amanda Palmer on keyboards and vocals and Brian Viglione on drums and guitar, the venerable Melbourne venue was both shaken and stirred.

It was a sell-out crowd, last night’s gig, and it was given its money’s worth. Melbourne bands the Jane Austen Argument and The Bedroom Philosopher provided support, and the Dolls played for the best part of two hours, right up to the witching hour, with two encores. Palmer crowd surfed her way to the stage at one point; Viglione was on stage chatting as we left after the house lights came on: nothing like a little hands on.

Viglione impressed behind the drums, using the instrument as a prop for his animated performance. He and Palmer worked off each other brilliantly, she in black bra on one side of the stage, he shirtless with bowler hat on the other. Indefatigable and unpretentious in his actual playing, Viglione’s talent and appeal is obvious, even if the recently quiet Dolls have been a tad overshadowed by Palmer’s solo cult.

There were canonical Dolls tunes including ‘Coin-Operated Boy’, ‘Missed Me’ and ‘Girl Anachronism’, brilliantly rendered live, and covers including ‘Mercy Seat’, ‘Two-Headed Boy’ and ‘War Pigs’ and an all-in cacophonous ‘You Got to Fight for Your Right to Party’.

A highlight — one that gave me a genuine frisson — was ‘Delilah’, with JAA’s Jen Kingwell singing counterpoint to Palmer. For so many verses, Jen stood quiet in the spotlight, and then, pow, she nailed that first high note, and never looked back. Judging by the screams from the crowd, I wasn’t the only one affected. Back in October, in San Diego, Palmer had JAA’s Tom Dickins sing the part, and it was likewise sensational. The duo just keep getting more polished, more confident, and last night I heard more in Dickins’s lower register, some real growl — what a voice! Last night, on ‘Delilah’, Kingwell showed her mettle, too. Stand back for their first single — a bold choice, this one — when it’s released later this month.

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