An Evening With Amanda Palmer
Amanda Fucking Palmer.
Three words that are pretty much all you'll ever need to describe this seemingly unstoppable force of an artist.
You need more than that? Okay...
It was back in 2007 that I was first introduced to her music. I'm not quite sure how it came about, but I think it was the result of Googling 'Dark Cabaret' as a musical genre and discovering Projekt Records' A Dark Cabaret album. It was on this collection of songs on which the first track was a little ditty called Coin Operated Boy by a band I'd never heard of called The Dresden Dolls. It was an amusing tune, musing on the benefits and drawbacks of an artificial partner over a real relationship, but it was the the inventive piano arrangement and an edge of dark power in her voice that sent me immediately back to Google, frantically searching for more. I think I spent the best part of the next month listening to The Dresden Dolls' album on repeat, soaking up the raft of emotions, themes and ideas that flowed through every tune. Tracks such as Half Jack even had me dusting off my own piano to figure out how they were played. It was the richness of sound that they managed to achieve with the combination of a drummer, pianist and vocals that I found was truly stunning.
So, it's safe to say that, at this point, I was a fan.
Fast-forward over eight years, several more albums including the sublime Evelyn Evelyn with Jason Webley, countless live tours, impromptu ninja gigs, joining perfectly with author Neil Gaiman, blowing apart Kickstarter and giving a TED talk that has now been viewed over 3 million times on Youtube.
It seemed very much like it was the right time for her to have written a book about her experiences. And that's exactly what she's done. It's this book and the promise of an intimate evening with the lady herself that has brought all of us here to a sold out event at St George's, a converted church in Bristol now re-fitted as a live music venue.
Seemingly it's a bit of a surprise for Amanda herself that she's performing in a church, but she turns it to her advantage, opening with a soulful a cappella song that reverberates around the hall and commands the attention of all in attendance. The first few songs of the evening are tracks from the wonderful Who Killed Amanda Palmer album and pull the audience gently into her grasp. The evening from there on is a mixture of songs covering the span of her career, engaging anecdotes, passages from her book, and much more.
I still find it amazing how she manages to take the audience on an incredible, emotional journey where, one minute you are on the verge of tears with a heart-rending tune and the next you are literally crying with laughter as she performs renditions of songs such as Dudley Moore and Peter Cook's Jump. She flows flawlessly from hilarious songs like Vegemite on the piano to the more thoughtful and ukulele powered In My Mind.
It's been obvious over the years that she has built up a deeply personal connection with her fans as evidenced tonight by her bringing them up on stage to variously choose passages from her book or lend her their iPad. The evening feels like a conversation between old friends swapping tales and sharing experiences. It is this bond that she has built upon which has allowed her to succeed so completely on platforms such as Kickstarter and now Patreon. Her audience are personally invested in her art and her music and it only works to enhance the appreciation of it.
To prove that she's not going to let a little thing like pregnancy get in the way of putting on a show, she plays and talks for over two hours, introducing us to the wonderful Whitney Moses with whom she duets perfectly for several tunes. She then vows to spend the time remaining between the end of the show and when the venue finally kicks everyone out signing books, t-shirts, boobs, arms and most other things thrust in front of her. It's nearly quarter to midnight when the queue has finally dispersed when she agrees, still with a smile on her face, to pose for a last photo to accompany this very article.
So, if you do get the chance to catch this one woman tour de force at one of her remaining dates, then I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed this evening. There are still tickets available for some of the dates and you can get details from http://amandapalmer.net/shows/
If, however, you have never had the pleasure of listening to her music or hearing her talk then go out and do so immediately. Then you too will understand why she is, simply: Amanda Fucking Palmer.