Live review: Opening night of Amanda Palmer's new project, Evelyn Evelyn, at Largo
Amanda Palmer wanted to end her concert Tuesday night at Largo at the Coronet with a drinking song -- specifically, “Drinking Song” by Jason Webley, one of the performers with whom Palmer shared the venue’s stage over the course of the 3 1/2-hour show.
After a single verse, though, the Dresden Dolls frontwoman decided the audience wasn’t participating lustily enough, the result of a significant tactical oversight: Largo doesn’t allow alcohol inside its theater. So, Palmer improvised, instructing fans to point their index fingers toward the ceiling, then turn in a circle 12 times while keeping their eyes on their digits.
The effect, she pledged in somewhat saltier language, would approximate that of several drinks.
A natural-high “Drinking Song” wasn’t the only time Palmer asked the crowd to suspend its disbelief during the show, the first of three this week at Largo. The concert was centered on an appearance by Evelyn Evelyn, a musical duo purportedly comprising two conjoined twins (both named Evelyn) from Walla Walla, Wash.
In March, the sisters released a self-titled debut with droll, folky songs about their upbringing on a chicken farm, their stint as a circus sideshow and their difficulties finding suitable mates.
“If you think you’re seeing double,” they sing in “You Only Want Me ’Cause You Want My Sister,” “Let me save you some trouble.”
Fans of Palmer (who in reality plays one of the Evelyns alongside Webley) have come to expect this sort of arty eccentricity; in addition to her work with the Dresden Dolls, Palmer has dabbled in musical theater and graphic novels; in 2008, she also issued a solo album produced by Ben Folds. This summer, she plans to release an EP of Radiohead covers performed on the ukulele.
At Largo, where Palmer and Webley wore matching black wigs and a dress made for two, Evelyn Evelyn offered plenty of off-kilter charm but seemed somewhat under-rehearsed, with sloppy instrumental interplay (on keyboard, guitar and accordion) and dramatic bits that could’ve used some tightening.
It took Palmer and Webley unil their closer, a hushed rendition of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” to lock into the kind of eerie exactitude necessary to put their act across.
Palmer was better in the brief solo set she performed following Evelyn Evelyn’s performance. (Webley also played several songs Tuesday, as did Sxip Shirey, who portrayed the sisters’ handler.) In “Ampersand,” she contrasted a grandly dramatic piano figure with a plainspoken lyric about how she “ain’t no Juliet,” while a version of the Dresden Dolls’ “Missed Me” found dark humor in a tale of prison romance.
Near the end of the show, Palmer announced she had some “really good news”: She’d been dropped by her record label after a series of well-publicized artistic disputes. In business for herself now, Palmer then urged audience members to text their e-mail addresses to a phone number she provided so she could inform them of upcoming projects without the use of the music industry’s promotional apparatus.
Having pushed believability to its limit, Palmer was asking her fans to put their faith in her anew.
-- Mikael Wood
Photos: Evelyn Evelyn at Largo. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times
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