You wouldn't notice the Dresden Dolls slip into the venue if you weren't looking out for them - a young, foppish looking guy with a Frischmann haircut and a shy girl, dressed in black, face down, hiding behind her fringe and trying not to be noticed. They bear little resemblance to the white faced art-historic clockwork-clown cabaret mannequins that will appear later in front of the sold-out indie mafiosi/ notebook scribbling teen-goth crowd (but I guess even Marilyn Manson doesn't wake up in character, as much as he'd like to). The transformation is amazing, in that actor-to-supervillian Hollywood kind of way - red lips and white faces, instruments dressed in red roses, striped black and white outfits complete with bowler hat: a Dadaist vision playing 'Brechtian Punk Cabaret'*.
Ebbing and flowing with spooky co-ordination, The Dresden Dolls are musically symbiotic - moving from a near-silent audible tapping of keys to full on piano assault, the drums following and sometimes leading with delicate cymbal touches, staccato roll attacks, skipping-record skittering to brash crescendo, time and again with mimetic precision. Taste the talent in the air.
The songs themselves are stitched into a Tim Burton-esque mural of the macabre and surreal: a Halloween musical inhabited by a self-harming Girl Anachronism, a Coin Operated Boy, a Half Jack/ Half Jill androgyne and a muso Backstabber, among others. And like the musicals, they swing between comedy and melodrama, giddy happiness and introspective despair. The Dresden Dolls are a proverbial breath (earful) of fresh air (music), full of wit, colour and imagination, exhilarating and manic, lonesome and poetic, sweet, bitter, sun, rain, hellfire and fucking brimstone. It's not often that something this original creeps up. So grab it quickly, and hold on tight.
(* Winner, best new genre name category, Brainlove awards 2004)