'I'm not gonna live my life...

by tosca on Monday, March 15, 2010

...on one side of an ampersand...'
- 'Ampersand' by Amanda Palmer from the album 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer'

I am a recent Amanda Palmer convert, and that was purely by happy accident. Playing around on YouTube early last year I came across a live clip of 'Missed Me' by the Dresden Dolls and also 'Girl Anachronism.' Both clips totally blew my tiny mind. There was rage and passion and quirk and brutal honesty and loads of talent being spit out at such a furious rate and at full volume. The likes of which I hadn't seen in quite a while. I was hooked.

Imagine my delight to learn that Amanda Palmer had collaborated with Neil Gaiman to produce a book called 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer?' to serve as an extension to the cd of the same name. My cup truly runneth over. Then I heard through a friend of a friend that she would be playing in Wellington at the same time as I would be down there listening to Neil Gaiman speak (I wonder, if they hadn't been engaged, would it still have worked out that way for me?). With much excitement, and a little apprehension, I booked a ticket. My younger sister Jax decided to invite herself along, too, sight/sound unseen. At any other time I might have exhibited worry that she wouldn't enjoy it but I was too wrapped up in whether or not I would to take note. But all my fears were for nothing.

We arrived at Bodega early and spent a good (or bad, depending on your point of view) 20 mins cooling our heels outside watching outfits range from the mundane (jeans and running shoes) to the more outré (a coffin satchel, a parasol, a few corsets, a couple of victorian mini topper hats, striped tights, some awesome knee high boots and way out makeup). Every now and then I'd sneak a peek at the line-up board - an alternate way of pinching myself, I guess, to prove I really was there.

I can't be 100% certain because I wasn't right up by the stage, but I think she passed out dildos. Either that or they were funny shaped carrots and honey, if those were carrots, I'm never eating them :-) There were so many diehard fans in the audience and they went bonkers when she came out.

What can I say about the gig itself? And the dynamo that is Amanda Palmer? She knows how to play a crowd, and play to the crowd. For her first song she sang accompanied by a ukulele and it was simple. It also served as a great way to settle the crowd. And then she sat behind the keyboard and, in 3 words, she went insane. Totally insane. I have never heard anyone play the keyboard with such animation and, while she might have had a prepared set to get through, she was quite willing to be led by the crowd and let them choose a song every now and then. At one point the audience asked her to play the Ches & Dale song (yes, as in Chesdale cheese, geez) and when she said she didn't know it the crowd obligingly sang it for her. If they asked for something she didn't want to play she'd straight up say, 'I haven't played that in ages so I'm sure I'll fuck it up.' Respect. Occasionally she would start singing, 'Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah!' from Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance.' When the crowd started heckling Gaga, Palmer coolly told them, 'Lady Gaga is like Madonna, she's a necessary part of the cultural continuum.' Mucho cool, as far as I'm concerned. She also thanked the people for choosing to see her over Ravi Shankar who was also playing at the same time somewhere else (don't laugh but I did hear a lot of ppl say, 'Who the fuck is that?' Some people are appallingly stupid). If audience members gave her shtick she gave it right back, in spades ;) She played 'The Black Death' which is all about how she hates vegemite and was written a week or two ago while in Australia. I love the lyric 'It is the vegemite, my darling, or it's me...'. At one point she read a piece from 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' that was written by Neil Gaiman and the crowd was absolutely still, just listening. Her ability to know what to give the audience and when was just uncanny. My favourite song from the set would have been 'Missed Me' if only because it seemed so much dirtier and bawdier and louder than usual with all of those almost discordant sounding notes. Organised chaos ;)

At times it was loud and raucous and then simple and low key and then she'd amp it up again and she'd be bashing away at the keyboard and then tone it down so much it'd seem incredibly intimate, making me feel almost like a voyeur. I truly believe that hearing her on cd in no way prepares you for the pure genius of Amanda Palmer. It probably helps that I think she's totally mental :-) I'd do it again in a heartbeat. By the way, my sister is now a fan, too. Yay Jax.

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