Dresden Dolls, Devotchka | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Dresden Dolls, Devotchka 

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Not many women who grew up in nice big colonial houses in the Boston burbs can get away with presenting fictionalized personal crises as musical entertainment. But Amanda Palmer, singer and keyboardist for the gothy, uberdramatic duo the DRESDEN DOLLS, spins her tales with such punch and skill it's hard not to give her a big fat pass--even if onstage she and drummer Brian Viglione lay on both the pancake makeup and the mime shtick with a trowel. Palmer can take lyrics that seem like notebook poetry and make them sound like the ravings of fully developed, Bedlam-ready alter egos--a talent that makes Dresden Dolls songs sound less like Tori Amos (to whom Palmer's often compared) and more like a cross between a less clever Momus and a more aggro Antony & the Johnsons. The pair calls their music Brechtian punk cabaret, backing up the punk claim by occasionally bashing the snot out of their instruments, and Palmer's vocals can get gorgeously unhinged indeed. But on their self-titled 2003 studio debut (rereleased on Roadrunner last year) they keep their chaos controlled enough to impress the strictest theater director. Songs like "Half Jack"--whose protagonist either has parents who hate each other or is sick of being bisexual, I can't tell--earn their wrist-stabbing shrieky bits with creamy whispered vocals, soaring melodies, and becoming pop shapes. The Dolls are working on a new album; for this tour they're supporting a live DVD, Paradise (Roadrunner). --Ann Sterzinger

I think DEVOTCHKA would fit better on the bill for the late show at the Metro tonight with the Dirty Three and Freakwater. On last year's How It Ends (Cicero) the Denver band has a lot more in common with those two paragons of artful emoting; I imagine their music as a sound track for a western about a fatal border romance, featuring heroines with huge black eyes and lots of melodramatic acting. Musically they evoke the Mediterranean and eastern Europe as well as the Wild West, and Nick Urata sings in an eerie croon that almost breaks into Klaus Nomi territory on "Twenty-Six Temptations." But their deadliest weapon is their sense of melody, and they use a seemingly endless array of instruments (cello, bass, accordion, mariachi trumpet, and more) as ammo. --Monica Kendrick

Dresden Dolls headline, Devotchka plays third, Faun Fables play second, and Mucca Pazza opens. Sat 10/15, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $19.50. All ages.

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