All of Broadways Yesterdays
Hungry, thirsty and aggravated over parking, I strolled along the park toward the Orpheum in a daze. Then, all of the sudden, I dropped off the earth at the corner of Hamilton and Tremont into a vaudeville sanitarium. Hopscotch and murals were chalked everywhere as a menagerie of long-forgotten extras greeted me while I ambled along in wonderment. People in costume were ubiquitous; performing, socializing, posing, and generally running amok in a self-created world of the twisted fantastic. It was extraordinary. I found out later that these may or may not have been members of “The Brigade,” but as the posters said, I should probably keep my “Lips Locked.”
Fresh from the early shows of their reunion, 80’s East German supergroup Porsches on the Autobahn ripped it up early, dropping fresh beats and showing us the superiority of Germany. Dressed in sharp suits and modish glasses, they worked the crowd into a frenzy with stylishly synchronized dance moves and healthy doses of Kung Fu. After a short love song interlude by Otto and co., they finished off strong with tons of wood breaking, dancing, a man with a disco-ball head, and of course, explosions. To experience them is all about happy dancing and Kung Fu, which the Dresden Dolls got in on for the last song. However, this was just the start of our trip down the rabbit hole.
After a short interlude of set-changing and a quick theater sketch, it was time for the next performance by Humanwine. I can’t say I know how to describe their music, but the best I can do is that it’s theatrically tinged alt-rock with brass, piano and a squeezebox. Oh yeah, and a girl with pipes. The lead singer, Holly, is my new band crush, as her voice soars over the crowd in every song. Keeping the rhythm and happy feeling going, Humanwine shined for the receptive crowd. Oh, and that voice (I’ll stop now, honest). Their sound is very unique, and a good fit with the Dresden Dolls as they both work off the same theatrical/classical core to create something new and different from most bands you might hear. It’s truly a treat to listen to, as each member of the band puts in a great effort towards the deep sound from way back. I was especially impressed by the percussion and horns, as they set off what would otherwise be a limited sound. Oh yeah, and those pipes (okay, I lied). As their set ended, the crowd roared with approval, setting the tone for the rest of this twisted night.
The master of ceremonies, Tyler Fyre, a sword-swallowing devil in red pants, talked us through a stripping hula hoop dancer, Miss Saturn, and his own impressive skills of steel consumption as the tension built. The excitement in the crowd was palpable for ultimate set of the night by the Dresden Dolls.
Taking the stage to a deafening roar with beer in hand, the Dresden Dolls launched into a stormy intro with a wonderful song that I don’t know the name of (yes I’m a horrible reviewer). Pacing the show like an ocean, we were treated to swells of upbeat songs like “Backstabber”, then troughed into the mellower numbers of their catalogue, enrapturing all but the people in front of me, who kept leaving. I was kind of put off by some of the show pacing, but I was hungry and tired, so who knows. Included in their repertoire was a variety of covers, which gave us Dolled versions of bands like T-Rex. Perhaps the warmest and most hilarious of these was when the tumultuous twosome recorded a Leonard Cohen song for their friend’s wedding. This involved a series of aborted starts, offkey experiments, and some engaging banter with the crowd. It was obvious this was the hometown launch to the tour, as the band just had fun performing what they felt like, trying out new songs and giving us a keyhole peek at their favorite musical memories. Amanda glowed as she took in the massive Orpheum crowd, the dream living, singing, dancing, and screaming in front of her. Then, Girl Authority, little girls in prom dresses, came out and sang “I love rock and roll” with Brian (the other piece of the destructive duo) on guitar and Amanda on drums. Following this up was a jaw-dropping drum solo by Brian, throwing down gobs of coordination and speed to a piano backbeat. The rest of the set blurred by my sleep-deprived eyes, ending with the rollicking “Girl Anachronism” as petals fell from all around, my favorite of the songs known and not.
Of course, this was not the end, not with the crowd ready to collapse the balcony and set the place on fire. After a quick interlude, Amanda returned to downright hearing-damaging screaming and applause, thanking everyone for coming and dedicating a stirring rendition of Postal Services “Such Great Heights” to all in the crowd. As the crowd/band love pinballed throughout the room, Brian returned as Amanda described the inspiration to the song “Sing” from their new album. As she told it, she believed that everyone should sing along at shows, so she wrote the song as her treatise to humanity on the monumental importance of oratory accompaniment. As the song moved on, Girl Authority and part of Humanwine joined in while the crowd took to its feet (not that most weren’t standing anyway). Porsches on the Autobahn sang out from the side balcony and petals were dropped. It was like a love nuke to those dressed up and not, for everyone. The lights went up, there was bowing and screaming, and it was over, leaving me barely standing after roughly four and half hours of show.