November 10, 2006
I’ve been to quite a run of really good gigs recently — Sparklehorse, Lana, Steve Reich at the Barbican — but Saturday was the best one yet. In fact, I think it might actually be the best gig I’ve ever been to — which is quite something considering I’d never heard anything by The Dresden Dolls before I went.
They’re an American piano & drums duo with a 1920’s German Cabaret aesthetic (they describe their music as Brechtian Punk Cabaret), and they put just about every band I’ve ever seen to shame in terms of putting on a great and entertaining show. The gig — in the Roundhouse in Camden — was more event than rock concert: rather than the conventional support act / pause / support act / pause / main act, there was some sort of performance going on somewhere at all times. A continuously shifting line-up of avant-garde dancers, surreal musical comedy acts, projected animations alternated between the main stage, two mini-stages, and even the middle of the crowd. Everywhere you looked there seemed to be something happening: you’d suddenly catch a glimpse of a ghostly, white-painted man spotlit stock-still on a balcony, or a girl in a tutu would rotate slowly past like something that had drifted out from the pages of Alice in Wonderland.
The Dresden Dolls’ own set was announced by a proper old-school fan dance — nipple tassels and all — and even once they’d started their set they were far more fun to watch than any other band I can think of: the drummer looked and moved like a deranged mime artist (he really had a bit of a Japanese taiko thing going on too: I’ve never seen another non-taiko drummer whose style of movement was such an integral part of his playing), and the pianist would hit a chord, then just have time for a copious swig from a bottle before it was time to hit the next one. While they played, the various dancers and other performers took turns to perform alternately strange and acrobatic routines on the stage.
Go and see them, I reckon. I can hardly begin to describe how good they were.