“Love Yourself,” that’s what it says above the stage at the Granada Theater. Amanda Palmer, The Dresden Dolls’ singer and keyboardist, seems to live by that mantra. She’s made a career out of being an internet force to be reckoned with; she’s made a career out of fostering an online community that thinks of themselves as her family. She’s made a career out of reaching out to the lost souls that wander the blogosphere. “Love Yourself” seems like something she would say, something she would type out in a quick Tweet, something that her fans would soon accept as gospel.
I’ve always found that kind of relationship troubling. I’ve always found it kind of fake. I love Amanda’s songs, but I would never approach her in the street, I would never act like we’re friends. But, because of her blogs, a lot of her fans would. I wondered how that disconnect between the online-Amanda and live-Amanda would manifest itself during the concert on Friday.
I’ve never seen The Dresden Dolls live. The last time they came to Dallas was in 2007, when they came to the Palladium Ballroom. That was the week after I saw the Foxboro Hot Tubs at the Loft, and I was concerted out. I chose not to go, a decision I would later regret, when the Dolls announced that they were breaking up. Brian Viglione, the other member of the Dolls, the drummer, announced the break-up in a YouTube comment, and I was “there” when it happened. I was very upset. I found a music blog that was also mourning the loss and holding a contest to win a copy of The Dresden Dolls live DVD, In Paradise. I won it.
I got the DVD in the mail on Halloween. I watched it, and I got a sense of what I thought I would never see. But on Friday, I find myself at the Granada Theater, standing next to my sister. She’s not a fan. She hasn’t even heard of The Dresden Dolls. She’s heard of Amanda, though. Amanda’s good at self-promotion. She released a solo record, Who Killed Amanda Palmer. She writes the most narcissistic blogs I’ve ever read, and makes them seem like they’re revealing universal truths. But I’m still a fan. I still know all the lyrics to her songs. After the opening act, Girl in a Coma leave the stage, I’m ecstatic to see the dolls. I’m ecstatic when they open with “Good Day,” the first track off their first album, and “Sex Changes,” the first song off their second record.
The people in the audience seem to think they’re closer to Amanda than they are. “HELL YEAH!” one guy repeatedly yells. Amanda tells him, “Your enthusiasm is so impolite, so Texan.” She’s amused. I think of the people in the room with me – and it’s a full house – and I think of the Tweets that showed up on the screens before the show. The old memes, the Mean Girl quotes, the jokes about loving yourself, and I realize that maybe I just hate everyone because if anyone I knew wrote anything like that, I’d disown them. I look at the guys in front of me, inexplicably dressed in ponchos, who spend the majority of the night whispering to each other and making out with their girlfriend, (ruining my sister’s view of the show in the process,) and I hate them. I don’t feel much like loving myself, or anyone else in the universe.
But I still sing along when they play “Astronaut,” probably my favorite of Amanda’s songs, and “Missed Me” and “Delilah,” which had everyone laughing during the intro. “This is actually a sad song,” Amanda points out, grinning. Everyone laughs some more. Brian’s a character in and of himself, and he’s great during the cover of “Pierre,” a song I know from The Paradise DVD.
The Dolls play “Will,” a song I wasn’t expecting. I think to myself that I would love to hear “Bank of Boston Beauty Queen,” but that that’s very unlikely. I think some more about “Love Yourself,” which looks weird in the dark, the gold paint and the lame font. The whole theater seems like a hippie’s paradise, really. There’s some sort of goddess on the ceiling – I couldn’t say who, it’s out of my frame of reference – and some artwork on either wall that’s really lovely. But I still find the atmosphere obnoxious.
That’s about the time I faint.
When I wake up in the lobby, my sister hands me a face towel and the security guy hands me a cup of water. Another security guy asks if I’ve taken any drugs. I guess drugs are a good reason to faint, but I bristle at the implication. I hear “Coin-Operated Boy” through the doors, and realize the Dolls have moved onto another song.
I’ve never fainted before, and I still feel kind of loopy, but I paid thirty bucks for a ticket, and my mother’s instilled thriftiness in me from a young age, so I head back into the venue relatively quickly, although the band’s now on another song. My sister thinks I just got too hot, and I tell her she’s most likely right. I also hadn’t eaten for twelve hours, and I’d twisted my ankle, and the Tylenol was wearing off and maybe the blood was flowing to it fast or something, but I’m still kind of in shock from fainting, and I worry that I have a brain tumor.
My sister and I lost our spots in the front, but the show ends not too long after that, and during the encore, Amanda comes and sings toward the back, so I get a good view of her, and my Blackberry gets a blurry picture. I expect The Dresden Dolls to close with “Sing,” but they end with “War Pigs” instead.
I don’t stick around after the show. I decide to leave and get food as soon as possible. I idly wonder what the aftermath is like. I’ve heard that the Dolls will meet with all their fans, which is great, but the Granada Theater was very full. I think about how much I love Amanda’s lyrics, and how much I dislike her persona. I think about how the internet is such a seemingly wonderful outlet for an artist, and I do think that, in the future, to be a successful musician, you’ll pretty much have to be your own PR guy. But I realize that while I think everyone should love themselves, they really shouldn’t do it in public.
And so ends the very personal concert review that I’ve written of my own volition. Feel free to comment on my hypocrisy.