More on a whim than much else, I snagged tickets to see Amanda Fucking Palmer last night at the State Theatre. I’ll be honest, I knew virtually nothing about her. I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and he had recommended following her on Twitter a few months ago, so I did. I dug her tweets, but far more interesting to me, they way she used social media to truly create a new career for herself showed that this chick was pushing the boundaries of interacting with fans in a way that I believe is going to be the blueprint of how musicians survive and thrive as the old system of big corporate labels die a none-to-soon death. How she made essentially goose egg from sales of her CD, and yet was able to make a fairly hefty sum via Twitter and the like was revelatory to me. Anyway, it was enough to get me to buy tickets having only heard a handful of her tracks.
As I left the crib with The Missus, I told her we might literally only stay for a song or two before bouncing back home. Luckily, The Missus was in no rush, as it turned out to be one of the more enjoyable shows I’ve seen in a while.
Opening act Nervous Cabaret (who also played the role of AP’s backing band) might well have put on a “better” show than Ms. Palmer herself. It seems to me that Amanda’s strengths lie in her stage presence and lyrics as opposed to her vocal depth. NC’s lead singer, however, had a damn impressive set of pipes. And that band ain’t got no dust on it, I tell you what.
Both acts music has been described to me as Gothic punk cabaret, and that seems a perfect sobriquet. Both were slightly jazzy, slightly funky, very theatrical, but most importantly, were damn fine musicians. And when the bassist donned a goat mask for no apparent reason just before they left the stage, I knew they had made a new fan.
Amanda eventually took the stage just before 10 pm to fairly thunderous applause from a crowd made up of an assorted lot you’re not going to find just anywhere. We had some aging Goths (that 6′ 6″, 250 lbs dude in the top hat and white face paint, the numerous middle agers wearing black stockings, more than a couple of females who dig females dressed as dapper dons, etc.) and various other folks who might have been freaks back in the day, but seemed rather subdued in this setting. Again, I know virtually nothing of her music, so I can’t really say what songs she played. I later learned she played a few Dresden Dolls tracks and a bunch of tunes from her solo career. I did recognize her cover tunes, of course, including House of the Rising Sun and a snippet of Twist and Shout. In the middle of her set, she had an audience Q&A (her second session of the night, but we got there too late to see the first) that gave insight into why she shaves her eyebrows and her apparent utter disdain for the Twilight movies (I guess old school Goths hate the new school posers; and thus, it all comes back to footwear), amongst other personal insights. Her encore was particularly compelling, when she brought out her father to play guitar and duet on a Leonard Cohen tune before bringing Nervous Cabaret back onstage to reach the most rocking points of the evening.
More than just a music performance, this seemed much more like theater to me. The crowd apparently felt the same way, as far as I could tell. Of the hundreds, if not thousands, of concerts I’ve seen, never before have I actually heard an entire house go silent during the ballads and dirges that burbled forth from AP’s pipes. I don’t know why, exactly, but that impressed me on some deep level. Fans actually respecting an artist…will wonders never cease?
Towards the end of the night, Ms. Palmer mentioned she’s been playing the area quite a bit lately. The next time she does come to town, I plan on being in the audience again.
(Complete side note: I snagged both of NC’s CDs from the merch table, but took too long to grab Who Killed Amanda Palmer. That’s a pisser. If AP ever happens to stumble upon this review, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against her if she saw to it that a copy made its way into my greedy little hands so I can continue to share the love. It’s all about the love, after all. I’m not saying, I’m just saying. You know what I’m saying?)
mp3: I Google You (Amanda Palmer, live, 8-5-08)