Monday, May 08, 2006

Live Review - The Dresden Dolls - Sheffield Leadmill May 7th 2006

The Dresden Dolls have always described themselves as Punk Cabaret, and tonight we see the contradicton at the heart of their mission statement. If the make-up and costumes suggest the artful atrifice of theatre, it's the chaotic spontaniety of punk which almost topples the Boston duo's Sheffield debut. After making an guest appearance with ace support Devotchka, Amanda and Brian take the stage proper in their full Dresden Dolls regalia, performing their traditional arms aloft bow, both faces blanched white with striking red lipstick, Amanda's pale thighs peeping over her stripey stockings, Brian's hat perched atop his head like an errant Mr Man. They then charge through 'Sex Changes' from new record, followed by "Missed Me" and "Bad Habit" from their debut. But already the Gremlins are creeping in, and Brian is forced to deal with a collapsing drumkit - eventually he hurls his drum pedal at the back wall in disgust. Ad-libbing admirably, Amanda treats us to a solo rendition of "Such Great Heights" by US indie legends The Postal Service, whilst things are repaired. Unfortunately, only a song or two later, Brian has a broken guitar string during a brief sojourn to stage front, and is soon complaining of a damaged wrist. The setlist now well and truly out of the window, we get a spirited - if frazzled - romp through "Mandy goes to Med School" before two of the Doll's most intense tracks - "Delilah" and the always unsettling "Half Jack"bring the main performance to a goose-bump inducing close.

Emerging after the encore - a battered "The Who" T-shirt now replacing her trademark black dress - Amanda apologises for her band mate, explaining that his hurt wrist means he cannot play anymore. Still - the theatre always says, the show must go on - and Amanda gives us a lovely if downbeat ending to the show - the melancholy alcoholic haze of "Me And The Mini-Bar" is followed by a closing cover of the Leonhard Cohen via Jeff Buckley classic "Hallelujah" (the first few chords of which cause the dippy girl next to IGUN to starthyper-ventilating with excitment) It's far from how the gig would have been planned, but feels appropriate and leaves the Leadmill appropriately sniffly and moved.

The Dresden Dolls walk a fine line between performance art and a conventional band at the best of times, but tonight sees them at both their best and worst - the artifice crumbling around them, Amanda rescued what could have been a disasterous night. (Brian's frustrations were obvious - he could later be seen harranging a hapless bootleg t-shirt seller outside the venue - best quote; "We're working in there man - we gotta eat!") Often it's the nights which teter on the edge of collapse which prove the most memorable and tonight was no exception. Viva The Dresden Dolls then - but for their sake, hopefully the rest of their tour is a little less shambolic.

Words and Pictures by Matt

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