Amanda Palmer gig review


Free of the sweet shackles of The Dresden Dolls, anglophile and punk rock cabaret queen Amanda Palmer is now not only stepping out with Neil Gaiman but also going solo with a heraldic and glorious UK tour of her new album. Titled, and why not indeed, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

It was a not so cold, nor stormy, night in Edinburgh. In fact, as far as weather goes in Scotland, it was actually a calm and serene night. There was palpable excitement in the air, for my friend and I were to see Amanda Palmer, that piano playing, punk cabaret beauty, perform at the HMV Picture House.

Amanda Palmer is better-known as the voice behind the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, whose line-up (if two people can be called a line-up) consisted of Amanda Palmer on piano, toy piano and vocals that soared into the stratosphere to reach new realms of glory – oh, and Brian Viglione, a supremely skilled drummer, guitarist and vocalist.

Due to record label hell, Amanda Palmer has ventured out into the grey, dark world with her solo career, painting everything that little bit brighter everywhere she goes. When approaching the doors to the HMV Picture house that fateful Saturday evening, it was clear her influence was in the air and all around. Outside the venue, a tall, bohemian gentleman clad in top hat and satin coat played a portable piano in an area littered with gothic candles. It was like stepping into another world. A world full of top-hatted, satin-coated, portable piano playing gentlemen. The sort of world I think you’ll agree we’d all at least occasionally like to live in.

‘Leeds United’ – from the album ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’

Amanda gave a good bit of her soul to Edinburgh that night, performing with an honesty that seems to have been lost in the music industry. But a live gig is all about give and take, and Amanda Palmer may have given of her soul but at least the crowd gave her the dubious gift of sock puppets. Miss Palmer stopped three times during the beautiful “Ampersand” to ask why those in the front row had sock puppets on their hands. Thus, the sock puppet army was born.

The danger with bands and indeed people who are ‘arty’, you know, the kind of people that need ‘arty’ in quote marks, is that they are pretentious with their work. Art for the sake of art, as it were… but Amanda Palmer shared a lovely innocence in her music, displaying how her music is progressing beyond The Dresden Dolls very nicely. Always sensitive, always loving, and always an incredible artist, Amanda lifted the barrier between artist and crowd, unifying the room with both her music and her heady presence. “Runs in the Family” had the edgy, chaotic style found in the self-titled “The Dresden Dolls” album, and the trademark Amanda Palmer sounds of “Yes, Virginia” were given the experimental twist of a backing band.

As for the crowd on that not-very-cold Edinburgh night… it was a diverse mix of teenager and adult alike. There were men with horns implanted in their foreheads and woman with roses tangling their backcombed hair. There were scruffy students and those who were elegantly dressed. One thing was clear: Amanda Palmer can pull in a very eclectic crowd that may stem from all walks of life but share an approachable and lovely attitude. Even if one of her fans was scarily tall…

Palmer also had a surprise guest in the form of Neil Gaiman, established comics writer (okay, and book writer, and TV series writer, and film writer) and lover of Amanda. Palmer and Neil Gaiman have been working together on her first published book “Who Killed Amanda Palmer?” (Also the title of her album) Extracts of the book were read out, which is a lovely and evocative thing to do at a music gig. The audience applauded, were moved, and a deep sense of beauty just sort of hovered all over the place.

As it happens, Amanda Palmer is something of a Renaissance woman. Her artistic talents are myriad. Amanda first branched out into media with her humble blog of her adventures with The Dresden Dolls, and with the overwhelming leap as a solo artist. She retains honesty in her work – you see the person behind the passionate music. The woman behind the lyrics and piano. She is her own harshest critic.

Let it be said out loud, once and for all: Amanda Palmer is a glorious person to behold and a vital force to be reckoned with. From her new, bigger-sounding musical work to the classic tones of The Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer’s influence is gradually seeping into the dark cabaret artists of today.

May we all wave our metaphysical sock puppets in the air, and hope her influence continues to grow.