Amanda Palmer - 3 December 2008: Chicago, Cabaret Metro
Words and Pictures by Kirstie Shanley
You never know quite what to expect at a Dresden Dolls show and the same can be said when seeing Amanda Palmer play live. Palmer -- one half of the Dresden Dolls -- performs intensely personal songs about everything from abortion to coin operated boys. She’s part burlesque, part cabaret, and wholly melodramatic. Though the talented drumming of Brian Viglione was missing, this was about the only difference as Palmer’s theatrics were no surprise for anyone who has seen the Dresden Dolls.
Bringing along a complete entourage of dancers and actors (The Danger Ensemble) from Brisbane, Australia, Amanda Palmer prepped the crowd for her appearance with intermittent performances by this troupe and also a reading by author Neil Gaiman, who she is currently working on a project with.
Most notably, a tall gothic member of the troupe kept reminding of us of both the title of Palmer’s solo album and the drama at hand by announcing the sad news: “Amanda Palmer is dead!” Of course, the show must go on and pretty soon Palmer was unearthed looking more alive than ever.
Those that are wondering which part of the Dresden Dolls duo drives the songs in terms of their lyrics need look no further than a solo Amanda Palmer show. The songs from her recent album release, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, demonstrate a similar inner turmoil and conflict to the tunes from her main band. Amanda Palmer is, in a strange way, a feminist punk who sings about subjects very few dare to.
In addition to her own material, Palmer played quite a few Dresden Dolls songs including “Bad Habit”, “Coin-Operated Boy”, and “Half Jack”. Though it is standard for Dresden Dolls performances to include many additional performance pieces, Palmer used more of them throughout her set as part of the actual songs instead of just between. Whether it was singing about the violence of Columbine or the unlikely cover of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”, the force was with and all around her. The dancers even carried props for some songs, such as for the cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”
On the few songs where she wasn’t accompanied by choreography, a violinist and also the cellist Zoë Keating filled in the songs rather nicely. Though it’s clear the performance element is a part of Palmer’s songs and helps make the evening an interesting event to remember, it’s Palmer herself that is the central reason to attend.