Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Amanda Palmer

I seem to have a Festival-related backlog building up. Let's see if we can clear it.

Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls is playing a series of shows this year, which is unusual for musical acts - they tend to drop in for a date or two. But she's had a good time at the Fringe in the past, roping in local cabaret acts as part of her show, and I suspect she's done the maths and figured out that if she does eight dates over two weeks, she gets a holiday at the Fringe into the bargain.

Brian Viglione, her drummer, apparently isn't so keen on extensive international touring. And besides, she's got an upcoming solo album to promote. So we're getting a solo show.

Apparently she's playing different sets every night, but when I was there, she was mainly playing original material from the upcoming album. There's a whole load of largely-unwatchable phone-cam videos of this stuff on YouTube, but to be honest, you're probably better off checking her Myspace page to get them with decent sound quality.

It's not a drastic shift from the Dresden Dolls, but then nobody would really expect that. The main difference is that these are songs which weren't designed for the Dolls' minimalist piano/drums combination. Her previous solo sets in Edinburgh suffered slightly from the fact that some of their most popular songs don't really work without the drum part. That's no longer an issue.

The Spiegeltent is an ideal venue for her, playing to her cabaret influences - well, as long as you can live with the fact that it's not exactly optimally soundproofed. And she's a great natural performer. It takes a lot of charisma to hold the attention of a room when you're playing a piano and can't really move around the stage, but she pulls it off - partly through her own performance and partly by roping in other people to wander around the room during songs in the way that should be familiar to anyone who's seen the Dresden Dolls perform. In a fantastically ludicrous piece of showmanship, she also joins them on stage for... five minutes of lipsynching to "Umbrella." And it's glorious.

Always worth seeing if you get the chance, and the new album sounds like it should be great.