After Saturday’s show at the Variety Playhouse, I can happily say that Amanda Palmer is exactly who she has always been: a brave and fierce talent wholly concerned with presenting her artistic vision in the most pure light possible.
Review by Bradley Stier, photos by Danielle Boise
It’s official. Amanda Palmer has broken through to the mainstream. She has been everywhere: on the news, in major publications, and, just this week, her album entered the Billboard charts at the number 10 slot. All of this heady success had me wondering what on Earth her live show would look like now. Would she still be able to connect in the same way with her audience as she previously had? Were we in for lasers, backup dancers and pyrotechnics? Was Amanda Palmer still the artist or was she slowly morphing into Amanda Palmer The Star?
After Saturday’s show at the Variety Playhouse, I can happily say that Amanda Palmer is exactly who she has always been: a brave and fierce talent wholly concerned with presenting her artistic vision in the most pure light possible. Over the course of two hours, she presented us with a multimedia tour de force showcasing her new opus Theatre Is Evil. The show veered wildly from balls-to-the wall rock concert to vaudeville comedy to hushed, intimate reflection, but never once felt overly staged or, conversely, out of control. Fronting the Grand Theft Orchestra, Palmer was confident and sexy and the band (Oh my God, THE BAND!) was exquisite. Extraordinarily talented and eclectic, the instrumentation ran the gamut from synths, drums, guitar and keyboards with every member, Palmer included, showcasing their deftness on each instrument.
More than any previous performance by Palmer I have seen (and I have seen quite a few), there was an energy and positivity that, while somewhat felt on the new record, exploded on stage. Even the few tracks from Amanda’s back catalog that were performed were imbued with this and they benefited greatly. But the night mainly belonged to the new material and it shined.
The centerpiece of the show came, appropriately, midway through during the performance of “Bottomfeeder.” The theatre was bathed in shimmering, blue light and Amanda launched herself into the crowd. Carried by the audience, Palmer slowly reached the back of the standing room crowd, trailed by a flowing train that covered the crowd behind her. The moment was sublime and ethereal and cemented the connection she established with the audience early on.
Another highlight was when Amanda opened a box that the fans had been asked to submit memories to before the show. The room was dead silent as Palmer shared the sometimes wistful, but mostly heartbreaking things that the audience shared that had occurred in their bedrooms at one time or another. It was a nakedly emotional moment and brought the already tight audience even closer together. Following it up was a cover of Yaz’s “In My Room” where a ghostly recording of Palmer reading the memories was played back underneath the instrumentation. It was haunting and, in the end, nearly cathartic.
Not one to let us out on a down note, the band closed the evening out with a three song set of high energy numbers that turned the entire theater into one huge dance party. After finishing with Who Killed Amanda Palmer‘s “Leeds United,” the audience filed out weak legged, sweaty and smiling outside where, true to her roots, Palmer stayed until everyone who wanted to had their merch signed and photograph taken.
Yet again, Amanda Palmer has struck this reviewer speechless. She continues to surprise and entertain while maintaining her fierce loyalty to her fans. No amount of press coverage or mainstream acclaim can seem to shake her defiant, DIY attitude and commitment to her art and those of us who love it.