Dresden Dolls with Lost Cause at the El Mocambo, August 12. Attendance: 175. Tickets :$12. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Boston duo the Dresden Dolls' self-titled debut LP is so far one of the most unique releases of 2004, with its cabaret-style songs that range from the slow and pained to the manically fast, and a sound that convinces the listener the band may be a put-on consisting of two people who don't actually exist. It was with somewhat worried anticipation that I approached their show at the El Mocambo , hoping they'd be able to reproduce the skills shown on the album. And so they did.
After a decent though not arresting opening set by local duo Lost Cause and a quick-and-dirty appearance by Scarlett , a burlesque dancer from the troupe Skintight Outta Sight, Dresden Dolls ivory tinkler and singer Amanda Palmer and bowler-hatted, mime-faced drummer Brian Viglione stepped onstage. They launched into Miss Me, whose slow pace and lines like "If you fuck me / that must mean you love me" might bring to mind emo femme piano music, but the fun creepiness with which Palmer imbues the lines turns it into something else.
The two were tight and precise all through their set, with no audible errors marring their start/stop tunes, and drummer Viglione building up steam and intensity.
Quiet clinks on the hi-hat culminated in thundering tom-tom pounding during their cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, which was literally a show-stopper. The sound cut out three times, prompting Palmer to blame George Bush before they resumed their heavy take on Ozzy's classic song.
Her voice work was just as strong as Viglione's, particularly on the uptempo numbers, which required vocal dexterity over frenetic keyboard work. When she sang a torchy number backed by guitar, the extent of her talent really showed.
There were fewer goths in the audience than you'd think a Brechtian punk cabaret act would attract, but a couple of people dressed like members of aristocratic rock band the Upper Crust were wandering aimlessly around.