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Emilie Autumn Concert - Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, PA Theatre of the Living Arts - February 23,2013
Reporter Justin Boyer

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.” (Madeleine L’Engle)

Describing the experience of an Emilie Autumn concert seems futile. This may seem like a counterproductive sentence, but the emotional and aesthetic sensation of an Emilie Autumn concert is very hard to describe in words alone. Her concerts really are the proverbial experience of being beyond words.

Emilie Autumn

Appearing to be styled after an unconventional Stephen Sondheim musical, Emilie Autumn’s latest album, Fight Like a Girl, boasts all the cleverness and erratically-arranged notes that Sondheim succeeded with incorporating in his seminal musical, Sweeney Todd. Seeing as how Sweeney Tood was one of my favorite musicals and I usually love eccentric gothic things, the first time I listened to Emilie Autumn was truly a delightful experience. I was surprised by the complexity of the notes, the meticulousness of the arrangements, the raw emotions, and even, the wit of the lyrics. Her music epitomizes the gothic style that effectively probes the darkness of the human heart and find ways of seeking meaning in a world where meaning seems absent.

Emilie Autumn

Also, many of the tracks from Fight Like a Girl cover the whole spectrum of emotions, in a weird uncanny fusion of the high emotions of a Shakespearean tragedy and comedy. There are darkly emotive songs like “What Will I Remember?” that are followed by the desperate fury presented in “Take the Pill.” This abruptly transitions to a sardonic song called Girls, Girls, Girls that mocks the way that asylums in the nineteenth century exhibited the many mentally-disabled patients as circus attractions. When Emilie Autumns voice rings in a brusque, masculine tone, “A tuppence, Just a tuppence; a handful of pills to feed the inmates,” the satirical elements of the song begin to take on a real serious tone. Plus, you are getting a very nuanced criticism of the way women during the Victorian period, particularly those with mental illness, were even more marginalized than women who were seen as being mentally sound. This past scene from a Victorian period asylum folds in on the present in a relativistic way, as we ponder “How much has the treatment of women, or really, any historically marginalized group changed?” This kind of art may be amusing, but there is an uncomfortable seriousness underpinning all of her tracks. It showcases the plight of the outsiders in a fight towards ultimate victory.

Part of the genius of this entire album exists in how multifarious the music is, as evidenced by this one track. The performance at the Theater of Living Arts further added another layer of vaudeville aesthetics, as both Emilie Autumn and the Bloody Crumpets, Veronica Varlow and Captain Maggot, orchestrate their movements onstage to really embellish the dramatic tone of this song. Plus, they are wearing a range of modernized incarnations of Victorian outfits, such as the infamous corset. In one song, you get a history lesson, social and political commentary, witticism, splendid choreography, physical stage effects, and great singing. This is a real cathartic experience that leaves you sputtering for breath, as you can easily become very overwhelmed by the sheer intricateness of Emilie Autumn’s performances.

Emilie Autumn

As I mentioned to Emilie Autumn during our interview, before the concert, “This is skillful art.” She had everyone engrossed, including the security guards. I’ve been to other shows, where the security guards seem cantankerous, but they were strangely perky. (Well, some of them might have been delighted by the appearance of three lovely women in corsets of stage ). But, the audience was very reactive at all the right times, singing aloud the lyrics to “Thank God I’m Pretty,” and “Mad Girl,” that capped this beautiful Broadway-esque performance filled with pomp and emotional rawness.

There was even a delightful interim that allowed the Bloody Crumpets to help us reestablish our emotional equilibrium, after the whiplash of these beautiful, manically-emotional songs. In many ways, the performance of the Bloody Crumpets was a great moment of respite, a playful reenactment of fanfiction that they reportedly found written on Fanfiction. Net. It was hysterical, and nearly half the audience was gasping for breath, after laughing uncontrollably at the way that Veronica and Emilie Autumn tried to seriously act out an excerpt of a fanfiction, which Captain Maggots read in the same way Gilbert Gottfried would read Fifty Shades of Grey (There is a legitimate parody video, advertising the audiobook version of Fifty Shades of Grey, read by Gilbert Gottfried)..

Other shining moments, involving the Bloody Crumpets, include a dazzling dance performance by Veronica. Using Emilie Autumn’s industrial-classic violin piece, Dominant, Veronica mesmerizingly danced in perfect rhythm with the music. Captain Maggot had her own moment to shine as well, when she performed with a huge hula hoop of flames during the tense track, We Want Them Young. Also, Captain Maggots wore a rat costume, fitted with stilts, during the song “Scavenger.” Both Veronica and Captain Maggots are very skilled performers, and I believe that they’ve had circus experience. They added a rich layer of theatricality to a show that is bursting with electric theatrical moments.

Emilie Autumn

If there was a better way to wrap up this report, it is to comment on how the entertainers on stage were so receptive to their audience through this silly intermission performance and throughout all the songs. As Emilie Autumn said at the end, “The asylum wouldn’t be here without you,” alluding to her fans that are affectionately called Plague-Rats, since Emilie Autumn finds the names “fans” or “fanatics” to be insulting to name those who are fond of her music. When I interviewed her, Emilie Autumn expressed great, genuine appreciation for her fans, the many people who work behind the scenes and the Bloody Crumpets. For her, Emilie Autumn is not solely one individual; it is an all-encompassing term that is comprised of the fans and all the people who really helped allow this creative musician and her trusty Bloody Crumpets to blossom.

After the performance, in dramatic Shakespearean fashion, the uplifting, light-humored Spamalot song “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” reverberated through the dimly lit theater. This song echoes the motivation that throughout all the darkness and disillusioning moments that life springs on you; there is always some wonderful artistic outlet like Emilie Autumn’s performances that lets us all cathartically deal with the shit that is normal in life. True happiness is not about achieving a state of perfected bliss, but about finding peace in the dizzying paradox of our lives and even our interior selves. Just as the attendees of a good Shakespearean performance once felt after his shows during the height of Shakespeare’s theatrical career , an Emilie Autumn concert leaves you with a rich sense that good music really has the capacity to fill the void that rests uneasily in all our hearts and lives.