By Kylie Phillips
Simultaneous sun showers and sullen skies set a befitting air of dreary surprise Monday evening as Emilie Autumn, a classically trained violinist with a past as unstable as the weather, brought the dark allies of the Victorian era to the stage at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale.
Autumn’s Fight Like a Girl Tour is named after her newest album, released last July. Her uniquely coined “Victoriandustrial” music is an amalgamation of classical cabaret-inspired electronica. This latest album is probably her most empowering to date, focusing on feminist lyrics through macabre concepts.
Opening with the titular track from Fight Like a Girl, Autumn and the Bloody Crumpets, her singing burlesque sidekicks, were demonically charged from the start. The song is essentially a battle cry, with Autumn’s warning, singing: “My heart is a weapon of war. My voice is my weapon of choice.”
Their outlandish behavior was palpable from the start, but the lack of a lively crowd (or really a crowd at all) put a dull tone over the whole evening. “Plague rats,” as Autumn likes to call her fans, dotted the barely half-full venue. Most were Tim Burtonesque creations of girls who look like dolls, and guys who look like they hang out at malls.
Multiple men wore top hats and platform boots, while women dressed in corsets with striped tights. When speaking to the audience, tiny, fire-haired Bloody Crumpet Captain Maggot addressed them as “Ladies and gentlemen, and anyone unsure or in-between!”
Following Fight Like a Girl, Autumn delved into Time for Tea, another track from her new album. A red light bathed the stage, which had climbing structures and a metal cage topped with a vintage-looking clock that did not tick. The three ladies used scalpels as dancing props throughout the song. Veronica Varlow, the other sidekick (who bore a striking resemblance to Bettie Page), licked her scalpel like a lollipop.
If it wasn’t apparent by the second song that Emilie Autumn’s act is not for the conservative music fan, her sarcastic ode to pharmaceuticals, Take the Pill, certainly sealed the deal. Moving like some possessed marionette, Autumn sat in a wheelchair and sang through gritted teeth. It amounted to the epitome of personal-experience lyrics, though, considering that Autumn was admitted to a psychiatric ward after attempting suicide in 2004. A somewhat hypnotic beat is paired with lyrics that are like snippets from the women’s ward of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Autumn was known to be something of a prodigy on the violin, yet there were no instruments at this performance. It seems her focus now is infusing her music with a decadent taste for theatrics. Halfway through the show, Captain Maggot performed an enticing dance with a hula hoop of flames. This was only after the ladies invited one woman on stage to kiss the feather-clad Varlow. Autumn relied on her stagecraft to carry the show along, dropping the concert sensibility for an air of theater.
The rather motionless audience was pelted with muffins and tea before the ladies defiantly marched to their climax, One Foot in Front of the Other, the final song off Fight Like a Girl. Before bowing off stage, Autumn scaled to the top of the metal structure while addressing the emptying room, “Because of you, this is real! This belongs to you!”
When the red curtains closed, people meandered to the merchandise table to buy tour shirts, pocket watches, and pirate earrings. Smashed muffins scattered the floor in front of the stage. Several fans began shouting “Emilie” in hopes of an encore, but no other fans joined in their call for another song. Instead, a recording of Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life filled the stale, clove cigarette-scented air.
Once Autumn was no longer there, the burst of energy that carried the night along faded. Her Victoriandustrial music is definitely a niche, which is probably why there were not many fans in attendance. The abundance of empty floor space made the night somewhat drab, but there were some salvageable moments in the surprisingly entertaining show put on by Autumn and her sociopathic sidekicks.