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.

Amanda Palmer rocks Brisbane

Not many rock stars would risk ending their encore with a cover of Radiohead’s Creep, on ukelele, without a microphone. But then, Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame isn’t your average rock star.

Palmer, with support from uber-capable violinist and cellist, and Brisbane’s own Danger Ensemble, wowed and wooed a comfortably full Tivoli tonight on her Who Killed Amanda Palmer? tour, supporting her debut solo album of the same name.

The theatre’s old-world charm was the perfect complement for the bohemian charm of the Boston performer and her support cast, supplemented by an excellent light show.

Palmer is a honey, sassy and friendly and witty, and just a little dangerous. You know you’re in for a treat when she rises from her piano stool to give the keys her all, and showing a generous flash of well-formed cleavage in the process. Palmer is not shy. You just have to read her blog from her recent Sydney show to see that. Better yet, listen to her music.

Ampersand is one of my favourites, though it was Oasis — blacklisted in Britain for its ironic take on date rape and abortion — that got a huge ovation. And there was a good-hearted singalong for Dresden Doll hits Coin-Operated Boy and Girl Anachronism.

Palmer possesses a distinctive voice, low and gravelled; she puts her emotion into every song, whether upbeat and rockin’ or so slow and maudlin; and she knows how to play a crowd. She clearly loves performing — the interplay between her and her band was a joy — and appreciates that her music is making a mark. When was the last time a singer stopped the show to take questions from the audience? Or promised to move the signing session onto the street if need be, to make sure everyone got their chance?

I was impressed, too, by the Danger Ensemble; I was afeared the use of an acting troupe would detract from the music, but used sparingly and for effect, it was not only a way to enhance the show and the songs, but to break down the barrier between performer and singer. Clever.

The good news is, Palmer is hopeful of spending a solid couple of months in Australia, maybe in our summer. She’s certainly one peformer we’d like to see more of. ๐Ÿ˜‰