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Emo's / Austin, TX - 10/08/04

Finally, the band everyone was waiting for took the stage: the Dresden Dolls. When Sabrina first saw the two of them - singer/pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione - get on stage in full stage makeup and costume, she leaned over and whispered to me: "They're like the gothic anti-Mates Of State." But they're more than that. Describing themselves as "brechtian punk cabaret," the Dresden Dolls are theatrical, but not in a cheesy Broadway musical sort of way-rather, a turn-of-the-century, European bohemia. Theatrical, but also raw and visceral. Watching them perform Palmer's searing lyrics over lusty piano melodies and sympathetic drums, it is clear that their theme, unlike the other acts of the evening, is more descriptive, rather than prescriptive. Their confessional, narrative songs pour from them, both of them, with such honesty that couldn't be as accurately conveyed if played straight. The proverbial mask is a part of the message. And another thing that is so amazing about their act: never have I witnessed two people so completely in sync with each other. During a greater portion of the show, their eyes were glued to one another, watching every subtle movement of the other and seamlessly responding. Such intense involvement drew the audience into their web of song-stories, bringing the mood of the room to a fevered pitch, particularly during the frenzied "Girl Anachronism" and their passionate rendition of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs". The only thing that could possibly have made the evening more perfect would have been the performance of "Coin-Operated Boy", a polka-rhythmed ode to sex toys. Still, as we left the venue, I got a sinking feeling that we won't be able to see this band on an intimate stage for very much longer. Their sparkling originality is going to start a movement, and that movement is going to be huge.

- Emily Strong