One freezing Friday night a few weeks ago we ventured up to the famous Camden for an evening of live entertainment - a solo show by Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls fame). For those of you unfamiliar with the Dresden Dolls oeuvre (ha! I can't believe I used that word) it's described by Wikipedia and other sources as "Brechtian punk cabaret". Amanda's new solo album, which she apparently co-produced with Ben Folds, leans more to the cabaret angle if the show was anything to go by (we haven't actually listened to the album, yet).
Amanda is clearly a committed and talented performer, not least because she did the entire show in just a bra without ever showing a hint of self-consciousness. Well, she was probably wearing something on her lower half but we were too far back to confirm. After walking up to Camden from town and enjoying some massive pizzas (and a bottle of pinot grigio) at a nearby restaurant we ended up right at the back of the venue, which sadly, always makes it a bit harder to get really involved in the performance. But her excellence was not lost on us completely.
Speaking of the venue though, it is one of my favourites in London so far although it has a terrible name - Koko. Reading up on it this morning I discovered it has been variously known as the Camden Theatre (upon opening in 1900), the Camden Hippodrome (when Chaplin was on the bill!!), The Music Machine, Camden Palace as well as being a BBC radio theatre during the 1940s - 1970s and hosting such landmark programs as The Goon Show.
Being inside Koko is sort of like getting lost in a 1980s avant garde film clip. Everything is dimly lit, but all red and gold, and ornately decorated. There are actually about six floors of audience space with a warren of staircases and landings and half floors in between, so whenever you walk down a corridor you have no idea where you'll end up. Last time we came, to see the now-defunct Electrelane, the band wasn't all that good, so we amused ourselves by wandering between floors and watching all the emo girls dancing. Moving back and forth between the levels into dark, red corridors echoing with muffled beats and then emerging back into the glow of the stage and the loud music certainly adds something to the live music experience.
I was disappointed to read today that the over-the-top classical decor is not genuine - when it was the Camden Palace apparently it had an industrial-themed decoration scheme, so I guess the red and gold is all new-ish. Unless they reinstated it. Or copied the original design. Who knows. It still looks pretty.
Amanda and lighting effect
Some imaginative folk sprinking white rose petals over the crowd during a slow song:
This was the best I could do from the back row.
This is Neil Gaiman delivering some lyrics he wrote for the album. If you don't know who he is you probably don't care anyway, but he's this sort of literary goth hero in the graphic novel world.
The Boyfriend - a literary goth hero in his own world?
*That's the name of Amanda's album, so I can't claim any credit for "adapting" it from Twin Peaks - that was all Amanda herself.