Last night, I saw Amanda Palmer live at the 9:30 Club. My immediate and day-after reaction: Oh my fucking god. (In a good way!)
First things first: This was sort of a monumental night for me anyway – Despite living in the DC area for 20 of my 27 years, I had never been to the 9:30 Club. It all stems back to 8th grade, when ALL OF MY FRIENDS got to go see Smashing Pumpkins and The Offspring there, and I wasn’t allowed to go, despite the fact that it’d be chaperoned. This is second only to being forbidden to go downtown on New Years Eve 1999, which I only wanted to do to see Bono. I didn’t care about any of the other hoopla. Fifteen years after the Smashing Pumpkins/Offspring show, I say: Mom, Dad, I would have been perfectly safe. It’s a friendly, all-ages club, with kick-ass food and free pitchers of water set up on the bar. The point of that story is, for years, the 9:30 Club has always been some mythical place to me. I wasn’t allowed to go there when I was 13. It must be some dangerous, mysterious place! Well, it’s not. But it’s pretty awesome.
Back to Amanda Palmer. Say what you will about her – I’ve had more than one person say they can’t get behind her voice. Fair enough. Personally, I think it’s amazing, but I get it – the Bright Eyes syndrome. However, even if you think she sucks, you can’t deny she puts on a good show. She’s got enough energy for 10 people, as do her fellow performers. And she is an amazing piano player.
This was my third time seeing Amanda Palmer. The first two were when she was playing as a Dresden Doll. I didn’t think that last year’s concert at a freaking SYNAGOGUE could be topped -the most amazing acoustics ever – which totally makes sense, right, cause it’s a church building – but who thinks to play a show there?
Even though they were two completely separate performances, in tone, in songs, in bands, I have to say, she kicked last year’s performance’s ass last night. I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life – Smashing Pumpkins (I managed to see them later that summer), U2 about five times, Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds, Wilco, Jump Little Children… I would put this in the top two performances ever – just behind U2, and after Jump Little Children and Ben Folds.
And what a performance it was. In a way, I’m glad that Amanda P isn’t a huge superstar, because I’ve gotten to see her in small venues. Her show wouldn’t work in a big stadium, or even a semi-larger venue. But, she gets that, and takes advantage of the closer quarters.
So, her solo record is called Who Killed Amanda Palmer, right? There were three opening acts, and before each one, this dude would come out and remind us all that Amanda fucking Palmer is fucking dead, and get the audience to be sad, blah blah blah. At that point, I wasn’t convinced. I mean, I get it, she’s a morbid chick who likes death and goth and stuff. That’s cool. But it just seemed kinda lame. Until she was finally on, and the guy came out again to remind us that Amanda fucking Palmer was fucking dead, and then invited violinist Lyndon Chester onto the stage to play a sad song. About halfway into his song, the voice of Neil Gaiman came on, reading the liner notes in the album about Amanda Palmer’s death, and, well, here’s what happens next. (Note: I don’t think these videos can do justice to just how awesome the show was – it has to be seen live to get the full impact.)
Note 2: Our show was even cooler, as my friend and I were standing a bit back from the crowd, so we didn’t see her walk up, and there were no steps up to the stage, so the Danger Ensemble – that’s those four people you see – lifted her up onto the stage. So fucking cool! Oh, like this:
So that’s how it started, and it rocked from there on out. This crew, The Danger Ensemble, is I guess this troupe from Australia, who’s touring with her for no money. It sounds silly, but they add so much to the show. It’s the kind of thing that could be stupid, but all four of them take it so seriously, and are so convincing, that the audience buys into it and it becomes pretty powerful. And the violinist – this Chester dude – he’s astounding. I would just see him live.
They played for about an hour and a half. My only gripe is that the show had to end early – so we didn’t get to see the full set. I’m not sure if this is because they were the early show (Amanda kept on talking about a curfew) or if it’s because the gang was going to see the Eagles later that night…maybe a combination of both. Either way, they cut it short. I’m not sure what I missed, but I would pay again in a heartbeat to see the full show. Really though, I’m not sure why they even brought it up – the audience wouldn’t know we got a short show. So really my problem is the fact that they decided to share it with us. What did we miss?? I’ll never know.
Despite this, it was fanfreakingtastic. Some of the highlights include this song – which I wasn’t crazy about on the record, but live it was something else. I didn’t know the back story. Knowing back story can make all the difference.
That somber performance was followed up by something light, frivulous and rockin:
Get it? Guitar hero?
One of my favorites of the night was a new song – lyrics by Neil Gaiman, music by Amanda P. Hilarious. Side note: During this song my friend went to use the bathroom. After it got going, and I discovered it was hilarious, I thought, “Oh no! She’s missing it!” She came back a few minutes later, laughing, as she heard the song loud and clear, because the 9:30 Club has speakers in their bathrooms! Pretty cool, huh? (Ok, this might be totally normal, but I haven’t been to a small music club in ages, and was very impressed.)
Anyway, here’s what she didn’t miss:
She did some old Dresden Doll favorites – Coin Operated Boy (I didn’t think it’d be as good without Brian, but The Danger Ensemble put their own unique spin on it), Mrs. O, and Bad Habit. She did Ampersand. Her dad came on stage and they sang a song together. (He’s lives in Chevy Chase. Neighbors! I live right down the road, Papa Palmer!) The last song she sang was this one, which is my favorite from the new album, so I was stoked.
All and all, a fantastic night. If you have the chance to catch Amanda and The Danger Ensemble on tour, I highly recommend it. It’s really something, and it’s really something you have to EXPERIENCE to understand. Here’s her tour schedule – check to see if she’s coming near you!
Video of the Day: My life mantra since last year, after seeing Dan in Real Life. Live, and in person on Monday! Woot!