As always I arrived in Manchester at least a couple of hours before the show. I would much rather walk around, to kill some time, than to sit in a traffic jam panicking that I’d miss something, or not get a spot near the front.
The people queuing outside the Academy 2 were predictably young and ‘goth’ like. One ‘goth’ girl in front of me couldn’t stop talking the whole time that I was waiting. She actually pointed out an older gentleman further up in the queue saying, “Yeah, look at him, that old bloke smoking!”. It’s as if she thought that there should be an age limit to liking certain kinds of music. That only the young and trendy should be allowed out at night to see their favourite bands. If such a limit was enforced it should be an IQ limit or an attitude limit instead of one based on age. Fortunately or unfortunately I was within earshot so she didn’t talk to her mates about me. These mates, by the way, were behind us in the queue and she invited them all to join her. Don’t mind me, or ask if it’s okay! Judging from the scars on her forearm she had problems.
So it was quite interesting, as always, just standing there in the drizzle watching the people go by. A few people were dressed suitably for the occasion. A couple of men wearing bowler hats, one of them even wearing stockings, short trousers and white face paint. One chap was dressed in a suit and had a top hat on his head (were else!) and I’m sure I recognised him. It must have been at the Rollins show at the Academy because I’ve only been out twice this year.
Of course it was only later that I would recognise the two members of Bang On walking by and also two members of DeVotchKa getting out of a cab.
After what seemed like ages we, or rather me and everyone else, were let into the building out of the rain. Only to have to queue again to get into the hall itself, which strangely enough, is upstairs. The Academy 2 must be about the same size as the assembly hall at my old school. The gig was supposed to be in the Academy 3, which by its name alone, must be even smaller still. Probably about the size of my living room!
I was stood in a pretty good spot, just right of centre about ten feet from the stage. The gaggle of girls (what is the collective noun for a group of ‘goths’?) were stood, more or less, at the front but on the far right next to the speaker stacks. Why would anyone want to stand there instead of in the middle where you can see all of the stage?
From the ‘Show Time’ notices outside the opening band weren’t going to start until 8:30pm. So I was cursing the fact that it was still 40 minutes before I’d see any live music. My legs were aching, my back was aching, hell it must be my age!
Thankfully Amanda Palmer came on and introduced Bang On.
She had seen them performing at the Edinburgh Festival and had asked Katie and Dave to open for them. They make a great sound using unconventional instruments, which is essentially anything that will make a noise. Yes, I’ve never seen guitars played like that before. Bang On apparently played for nothing. Not even getting money for transportation, so a huge bucket, bright orange naturally, was passed around and I dumped a handful of coins into it.
They have something of an eclectic sound. It’s kind of gypsy folk music with an eastern European kind of feel to it. What is surprising is that they come from Denver Colorado in the US. I, personally, have never seen an accordion being played on stage before let alone a tuba. They played their own material and, I think, ‘Venus In Furs’ by The Velvet Underground & Nico, because I spotted the “shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather” line.
AlexandrA was on next and she performed ‘air ballet’ on a red silk rope 12 feet in the air. I was thinking, whilst watching her twisting and swinging from this rope, how does someone practice that? Not because I want to, but because you just couldn’t attach a silk rope to the roof in your garage and start hanging around.
After a quick set-up The Dresden Dolls finally walk on stage, hand in hand throwing flowers into the crowd. Behind their respective instruments Amanda and Brian start to play Sex Changes from the new album Yes, Virginia…. I must confess that when I listened to the CD for the first time it didn’t really sink in. I remember feeling disappointed. But after repeated plays the music really does get under your skin the same way that the last album did. They played Backstabber, Dirty Business, Mrs. O and Mandy Goes to Med School from the new album. Coin-Operated Boy, Half Jack, Girl Anachronism and The Jeep Song from the last album. As well as War Pigs and two other cover songs that I didn’t recognise. There are no doubt a few songs that I’ve missed.
I sang along and smiled and bobbed my head along with the music. I had a great old time. Amanda hit the keyboard keys so damned hard. That can’t possibly be the same keyboard that she punished when they supported Nine Inch Nails, can it? Brian, the drummer, was just a sight to behold, part of the reason why I was slightly to the right of centre. He just hits the drum-kit so hard you wouldn’t believe. Throwing his sticks up in the air and not even bothering to catch them. He does make a hell of a sound from what must, for drummers, be considered a minimal kit.
Everyone sang along to Coin-Operated Boy and I tried valiantly to sing all of the ‘skip’ part but gave up about 4 repeats from the end. That was just through fear of passing out. There was practically a mosh pit when they played Girl Anachronism. I never thought that I’d see so much flailing hair tonight. Because of some curfew they couldn’t play for much longer. They were about to play the last song when some people behind me started shouting. Even I couldn’t work out what they were asking for. Amanda and Brian could decipher the request and they played The Jeep Song as if their lives depended on it.
The show would have been perfect if they had dropped the two cover songs that I didn’t know. Only because there was a noticeable lull. Some people did sing along but obviously I wasn’t one of them. So I really wish they had played two of their own songs instead. First Orgasm is one of my favourites off the new album. I mean I don’t think they even played the new single Sing. But maybe they were going to do that before The Jeep Song was unexpectedly moved to the top of the playlist.
One thing that always bugs me is the fact that people go to concerts and stand completely still. They don’t sing or respond to the music in any way. Hell they don’t even applaud between songs. Which I think is a little disrespectful in a way.
One girl, who looked about two months past twelve, just stood there smoking her cigarettes. If you want to do that you can do it in any pub or pedestrianised town centre in the land! Just stay away from concerts.
A boy in front of me had his arms around his girlfriend for so long that I thought he was just using her for support. Then again maybe he was. Quit being so damned possessive!
The other thing which spoilt the proceedings for me was the drunken idiot(s) who shouted out during the performance. Amanda and Brian just ignored them, and rightly so, you don’t want to give the knuckle dragging Neanderthals any kind of attention.
After seeing them last year I knew that The Dresden Dolls wouldn’t disappoint, and they didn’t. The new material is on a par or better than the last album and they always put on a great show.
Now, does anyone know were I can buy a bowler hat?