An Amanda Palmer gig is really not the place to be, if you’re unfamiliar with the artist’s work and looking to see what the fuss is all about. Naturally, every Palmer fan will more than encourage you to get into her work – yesterday, if possible. But if you happen to find yourself at her live show and not yet a fan, you may feel a little out of place. Scratch that. You may feel like you’ve crossed the border into a country where everybody speaks the same language but you, and they all share the same joke as well; one that you vaguely understand, but still, you try. And if you try hard enough, at the end of the show, you may get a fraction of what everyone else is talking about.
This comradery all Amanda Palmer followers have in common, is more the topic of a thesis than of one review, but it does need to be understood, if we want to understand Palmer. In short, the musician, who’s been around roughly since 2000 (with punk-cabaret duo Dresden Dolls, conjoined-twin mime act Evelyn Evelyn, The Grand Theft Orchestra and as a soloist), has a different, very personal take, on how the music business should be. This includes sleeping on her fans’ sofas, asking musicians to play on her tour for “beers and high-fives” and having her music funded solely through Kickstarter – where she created the most financially successful crowd-funded music appeal of all time, earning $1.2 million. And the reward for a $5,000 donation was an intimate show at the donor’s house!
Having said all of that, the gig that took place at Camden’s Koko on 3rd June, was not a typical Palmer show. While it opened with two distinct crowd pleasers (‘In My Mind‘ and ‘Machete‘), and both were performed with charm and charisma, the bulk of the evening was conducted alongside Palmer‘s father, Jack. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, as the singer explained. That’s why they didn’t even have copies of the album the two were promoting, for sale. ‘You Got Me Singing‘, which was due to be released two weeks after the event, is composed solely out of folk-music covers and therefore levelled the plain-field for everyone in the audience that night. All were listening to the two singers perform those songs for the first time and all were pretty much unsure of what to expect.
Even for someone who hasn’t been following Amanda Palmer since Dresden Dolls, it’s hard to deny her stage presence. From the second she stepped on stage, she was there, and she was there to be noticed. It didn’t matter that she stopped a song because her baby was making noises, or that she forgot the words to another and had to start over. All was forgiven because she has the big voice, and the powerful piano skills, and the all-consuming personality. It also didn’t matter that most of the folksy songs kind of blended together, and that she brought her sister on stage, who is truly not a singer. All was forgotten because she also brought on Neil Gaiman, who was brilliant with his reading of Who Killed Amanda Palmer, while their newborn son banged on the piano.
This was the kind of show that only Amanda Palmer could pull off, for so many reasons – her talent, her history, her identity as an artist, but mostly – her following. Some moments were special, some funny and endearing. Most, though, were just regular – and when performed by any other artist, would have been plainly boring. But this artist was so grateful to be on that stage, and therefore deserving. It was evident in every voice singing back to her from the crowd “Sing for the teachers who told you that you couldn’t sing”; they were grateful too.
This Amanda Palmer review was written by Tal Imagor, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson. Photo credit : kelamina