Show Review: The Dresden Dolls with Pomplamoose at The Warfield, 12/31/2010

by Jonathan Pirro on January 1, 2011

Amanda Palmer surveys the crowd

Amanda Palmer surveys the crowd

Forget what you thought you knew about how to celebrate for the beginning of a new year. Forget what you thought could happen with two Bostonians, a collective of YouTube musicians, a pile of balloons, two cannons of confetti, and two thousand lovers of punk cabaret. If you were not one of the aforementioned fans that filled San Francisco’s Warfield Theater to nigh-overflowing to see the triumphant Bay Area return of the Dresden Dolls, you missed one of the greatest shows in the band’s career, and one of the best shows of 2010, and, quite likely, 2011 as well.

Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose

Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose

The evening kicked off with a glorious and well-received performance from Pomplamoose, a collective of Bay Area musicians held together by the core duo of Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, whose music is a gorgeous combination of original pieces and covers performed in a six-piece capacity. A great deal of the crowd seemed to be thrown off at first by the band’s arrangements, which were bright, pleasant, and delicately balanced between Dawn’s stoic, steady playing and Conte’s wild, overjoyed thrashing. However, the arrival to the set of several covers, including “Single Ladies”, “La Vie En Rose”, and “September” put the audience back in a much more festive mood, with quite a few of them mirroring the energy level of Conte by the end of the set. Many a sad cry went up when the band announced the end of their set, but it was clear that there would be more to come from Pomplamoose before the night was finished.

Jason Webley helps the crowd celebrate

Jason Webley helps the crowd celebrate

Less than an hour after Pomplamoose had departed from the stage, the crowd roared its approval over the arrival of the first special guest of the evening: Seattle musician Jason Webley, a master of the accordion and a close friend of the Dresden Dolls. Armed with his signature squeezebox, he worked to get the crowd in the most appropriate mood for the night: one of celebration, shouting, and the desire to be filled with alcohol. Performing a drinking song of his own design, with the inspiring lyric “If God wanted us sober, he’d knock the glass over // So while it is full, we drink up!”, and got the crowd to spin in circles 11 times before the penultimate repetition of the chorus. The final notes of the song were lost, however, to maniacal screaming, as the Dresden Dolls — the duo of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione — suddenly flew onto the stage, hurling flowers into the crowd and bowling Webley over with a massive embrace.

Amanda greets her excited audience

Amanda greets her excited audience

The first song of the night, a slow and haunting cover of “Cosmic Dancer” with Viglione on acoustic guitar, was immediately followed with thunderous performances of “Good Day” and “Sex Changes”. To describe the majority of the set as “regular” Dresden Dolls song is rather unfair, as each number of the set was accompanied with its own set of surprises, stories, and other antics from the duo, who seemed to be marvelously happy with being back in the city of San Francisco. “Mandy Goes To Med School” saw an extra five minutes’ worth of improvisation and solos from both Palmer and Viglione, while “Astronaut”, one of Palmer’s solo pieces, was accompanied with the intro to “Half Jack”, which was also performed in full near the end of the night. “Delilah” saw the Dolls being joined by singer Whitney Moses, who provided the voice of the eponymous character, and was the second of many more guests to join the pair onstage.

Brian Viglione in one of his many mid-song poses

Brian Viglione in one of his many mid-song poses

In addition to the Dolls’ songs being incredibly electrifying to watch, some of the true magic of the night came from their infamous cover performances. In addition to the staple of Carole King’s “Pierre”, Palmer paid tribute to composer Kurt Weill in a magnificent performance of “Die Seeräuber Jenny” from The Three-Penny Opera, and the pair came out from behind their instruments to lay down some beats in an a capella performance of “I Am The Condor”, a hip-hop number that saw them joined by Bay Area native Zoe Boekbinder, who was soon pinned to the stage under Palmer as she threw herself about. Boekbinder was the last “new” guest to appear onstage before the new year; following the darkly beautiful “Boston” and the mayhem-filled “Bad Habit”, the Dolls were joined by Boekbinder, Webley, Moses, and the members of Pomplamoose, as the entire lot of the musicians counted from 11 seconds down to the exact moment of midnight.

The biggest onstage party of 2011 so far!

The biggest onstage party of 2011 so far!

The new year was broken in with an explosion of confetti and balloons while the Dolls performed U2’s “New Year’s Day”, after which Palmer took over the drumkit, taking a backseat to Viglione’s electric guitar and the entire auditorium bellowing out a performance of “(You’ve Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”. The entire stage was covered in a flood of balloons, confetti and humanity, with musicians colliding like pinballs and liquor being passed about among them. After such an incredible bombshell of celebration, it was a great effort to drift down in energy with the core pair being abandoned for their performance of “Gravity”; thankfully, this was followed with the perfect closing number for the set, “Coin-Operated Boy”, with the eager crowd sometimes singing ahead of Palmer, who responded with joyous laughter at each instance.

Alone together again...

Alone together again...

Those who thought that the Dolls’ first departure from the stage seemed to indicate that the night was almost over turned out to be sorely mistaken, much to the delight of those willing to stay until the hour of one in the morning. The first encore began with Palmer telling the story of the Dolls’ last visit to the Warfield, where they had opened for Nine Inch Nails and had seen an enthusiastic Trent Reznor chew out a heckler during their performance; in honor of Reznor’s support, the pair performed a positively chilling cover of “Hurt”, and closed their first encore with the long-awaited return performance of “Half Jack” that had been a teaser earlier in the night. When Viglione marched back onto the stage a few minutes after the song finished, however, the crowd’s attention was thrown up to the balcony, as Palmer began running through the crowd and writhing about furiously on the edge of the upper railing for a salacious and fiery performance of “Mein Herr” from Cabaret. Palmer eventually worked her way downstairs and crowdsurfed back to the stage, and the pair closed out their New Year’s show with a thunderstruck cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” before finally departing for good.

Amanda performs "Mein Herr" on the balcony

Amanda performs "Mein Herr" on the balcony

As a tremendous fan of Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, I could be a bit biased in offering my opinion at this point. However, as a regular attendee of concerts of all degrees, and one with high expectations for New Year’s shows, it will hopefully mean a lot to say that this was one of the most magnificent shows I have ever seen. The explosive camaraderie shared throughout the theater fed wonderfully off of the positive energy and tremendous love from the cabaret punk duo, and the astonishing array of guests led one to wonder what surprises would come with every single song of the night. Palmer herself stated that it was, most likely, one of the best shows of the Dolls’ career, and this reviewer can agree with her wholeheartedly. As ways of ringing in the new year go, this was easily the best; let us hope that the rest of 2011 can be just as incredible.

The Dresden Dolls' setlist, as written; see below for the actual setlist!

The Dresden Dolls' setlist, as written; see below for the actual setlist!

Setlist:

  1. Cosmic Dancer (T. Rex cover)
  2. Good Day
  3. Sex Changes
  4. Missed Me
  5. Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing
  6. Mrs. O
  7. Die Seeräuber Jenny (The Three-Penny Opera)
  8. Delilah (with Whitney Moses)
  9. I Am The Condor (Double Dong cover with Zoe Boekbinder)
  10. Pierre (Carole King cover)
  11. Mandy Goes To Med School
  12. Boston
  13. Bad Habit
  14. New Years’ Day (U2 cover)
  15. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) (Beastie Boys cover with Jason Webley, Zoe Boekbinder, Whitney Moses, and Pomplamoose)
  16. Gravity
  17. Coin-Operated Boy

Encore 1:

  1. Help Me I Am In Hell (Nine Inch Nails cover)
  2. Hurt (Nine Inch Nails cover)
  3. Half Jack

Encore 2:

  1. Mein Herr (Cabaret)
  2. War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Abigail January 2, 2011 at 4:53 am

Great review! They also played Shores of California somewhere in there though. That song is one of my favorites.

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Juliettrowe January 2, 2011 at 5:15 am

very good review!

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Sid January 2, 2011 at 5:49 am

after witnessing the Dolls technically awesome yet emotionally off key and anticlimactic performance visited with equipment malfunctions, staged in the dourly run and rudely staffed san diego house of blues, i feel slightly cheated upon hearing about how much i missed at the warfield. sure, it was not new year’s on the 30th, but the lack of energy and connection compared with past DD performances i’ve seen made me regret attending that particular concert. please do your fans a favor and choose another venue and a different city next time.

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Kate McKinnon January 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I just thought I’d chime in to say that I had a good experience in San Diego. It’s true that the House of Blues treated us rudely and badly, but that’s just what the HOB does. They provide a good experience for the musicians and an indifferent one for their customers.

I thought the SD show was very good and that Amanda and Brian were connecting with each other. It felt great to me, and whatever minor malfunctions there were were handled quickly and pretty seamlessly by their own road crew.

I personally had a fabulous time and loved the show.

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Sid January 2, 2011 at 10:37 pm

not saying SD was not a good concert, only that in comparison to past shows it was not up to typical DD par. reading this review/hearing about what usually happens at their concerts, and having experienced something phenomenal elsewhere, i realize it just did not happen in SD.

Jill Porciuncula January 2, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Great review. It sums up the night perfectly and Amanda did have equipment malfunctions at our show as well but it gave her perfect opportunity to improv while her tech fixed the problem and Brian got well deserved drum solo’s during those times. The energy that they put out while playing together is unmatched to any others. It is obvious that they were meant to be on stage together. The rest of the World don’t know what they are missing. Also, I thank Amanda and Brian for being out in the cold and rain after the show to greet the fans who stayed behind getting soaking wet waiting for a chance to get an autograph. The way they pull their fans in and talk to them and treat them like true friends is something other artists should take note of. They are #1 in my book.

Reply

Jill Porciuncula January 2, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Great review. It sums up the night perfectly and Amanda did have equipment malfunctions at our show as well but it gave her perfect opportunity to improv while her tech fixed the problem and Brian got well deserved drum solo’s during those times. The energy that they put out while playing together is unmatched to any others. It is obvious that they were meant to be on stage together. The rest of the World don’t know what they are missing. Also, I thank Amanda and Brian for being out in the cold and rain after the show to greet the fans who stayed behind getting soaking wet waiting for a chance to get an autograph. The way they pull their fans in and talk to them and treat them like true friends is something other artists should take note of. They are #1 in my book.

Reply

Jill Porciuncula January 2, 2011 at 4:12 pm

A special Thanks to Brian for staying connected to one of my kids by email. The setlist that Tyler has been holding on to for two years waiting for you to sign finally is complete. Brian, you truly go one step above and beyond. Seeing my kids so incredibly happy makes the whole experience more memorable.

Reply

Daniel January 3, 2011 at 12:59 am

This review pretty much sums up my experience with the concert. It omits some of the more entertaining small bits of the night (like the improvisation after 3 keyboard malfunctions or Amanda, while in the balcony telling a mother of someone that “this is no time to be taking pictures,” and to “touch my vagina”) though…

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Anonymous January 3, 2011 at 3:28 am

This band sucks. Overrated, tryhard bullshit for teens with no taste in their rebellious, “I’m so different” phase and adults who are still stuck in aforementioned phase. Amanda Palmer probably has one of the flattest, uglies voices ever. She has one of the flattest uglies faces ever too. What a talentless, fat fucking cunt.

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Gordon Elgart January 3, 2011 at 3:35 am

Why read the review then?

Reply

EMAILBEN145 January 4, 2011 at 8:20 am

he likes pomplamoose

Csquirej January 4, 2011 at 10:37 am

It was one of my favorite New Year Eves. I loved Pomplamoose!!

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Derek November 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Dear Anonymous,
Yes, Amanda’s voice can be a little flat. It’s part of her charm.

As someone said in response to a similar sentiment on a Cat Stevens, “the song is “if you want to sing out, sing out”, not “if you’re a great singer, sing out.” Her sheer awesomeness overbalances her voice.

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Renstack December 15, 2011 at 2:02 am

Amanda Palmer appears to have bipolar disorder. Despite having no talent for music, she continues to engage in poorly thought out, lazy, self indulgent performances with no artistic merit. Because Palmer is involved with Scientology and the Gaiman family of mega-scientologists, she can annoy society with her ridiculous, pathetic performances while artists who are truly talented and special starve and are never seen. Palmer is a selfish, mental case who can’t be bothered to learn her trade. She might as well be shitting on the stage. She is absolutely worthless intellectually and artistically and even as a performance artist she has nothing to say that is worthy of an audience.

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Ola December 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Amanda Palmer is the WORST! I can’t even call her a musician. I heard she has bipolar disorder, which would explain a lot, like her stripping on stage, streaking, grotesque vocabulary and promiscuity. Too bad she is a Scientologist, otherwise maybe she could get some help.

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