Photos (c) Carina Mastrocola
Dresden DollsApril 21 at the Orpheum
Outside, the Brigade chalked portraits in the alley and smoked sullenly and dutifully gave fake names to the union photographers from the dailies. A girl with enormous breasts turned cartwheels in a strapless dress. Human statues took five and hugged old friends, leaving them stained silver. You know, the usual.
Inside, a costume party. Boys in feather boas and bowlers and body paint, girls in whatever flavor of cleavage-and-thigh-baring treatment they favor: French maid, punk wench, mall whore. On stage, a circus: performance artists, sword swallowers, dadaist fairy-tale tellers throwing toast, a drunk hoola-hooper stripping down to daisy pasties. You know, a spectacle.
You've seen it before, the Dolls have played this room even, only last time it seemed a fluke: a longshot opening slot on the Nine Inch Nails tour, the latest in a long line of Trent coolhunting expeditions. But now here they are again, new album, headlining, the grand ol opry filled to the rafters, and not just that, but filled with that peculiar demographic of artschool freaks, theater-club geeks, and trenchcoat kids with hair dyed Hi-C green, the anarcho-teengoth crowd you thought had all been Hot Topicked into dutiful submission to Warped Tour cretins. To oldheads, watching this Tribe-like hippie-goth band Humanwine on the opening card, it might feel like you'd been time-warped back to the underground that existed before MySpace and MTVu and YouTube and DVD-r: a band that acts as if it just had this one moment, the one onstage, to snag your heart and your contact info and your merch dollar. By the time we hit the send key we won't even believe a word of it anymore, for for a few seconds it feels absolutely true.
The Dresden Dolls were amazing last night, don't let anyone tell you different. Bum notes and false starts, yeah, but this isn't supposed to be American Idol. You went waiting to be won over, expecting you probably would be, making side bets with yourself in case they just tanked. They played for something like two, two and a half hours -- played new songs, played old songs, fucked up a Leonard Cohen song, played the Iron and Wine cover of the Postal Service song, played the one about the Noise board, played the hits, played their punk shit, made drunken admissions of being awed, played at least three-quarters of what they knew. I'm not in a mood to deconstruct. They just killed it. They also brought up the tweens from Rounder's Kidz Bop knockoff Girl Authority, and even that didn't derail the gig. There was a long speech about the finale (also the single), about how "Sing" was a response to a thread on the internet arguing over whether people should be allowed to sing at shows. "I think something terrible happened in the '90s," Amanda said, not even jokiing. No, this is not a new argument, and "Sing" is not the last word, not even a great song until the last 30 seconds, when it turns into one of those perfectly-harmonized singalongs that feels like it should be the roll-credits in The Sound of Music or something, and that's how they played it, with the brigade in their Village-People-meets-Marilyn-Manson-groupie costumes crowding three deep into the balcony wings, this big bright chorus and human statues throwing confetti. It's stupid, but it's also the kind of thing that makes OTD cry like a little bitch. Post it to the Noise Board: Fuck you, I was moved.