Look. She's not to everyone's taste. That's fine. Even I feel a bit uncomfortable about some of her antics, her nude twittering, her TMI blogs, her engagement to Neil Gaiman which is perfectly normal but still somehow feels like fanservice. People are free to love or loathe her. That's cool.
The haters are just plain wrong, though. ; )
Because when you see her play on stage, beneath the Forum's proscenium arch... it's like watching a cheetah run. This is what she does. And she does it magnificently.
THE SUPPORT BANDS
A. and I met usekh at the ACMI Lounge for dinner before the show. There was a short queue to get in to the Forum. We entered just as Amanda Palmer came out on stage in her dressing gown and introduced her first support act - the Jane Austen Argument.
I can't really tell you much about this band, because they only played two songs, and I was out in the Foyer buying a t-shirt during one of them. The female member had the most amazing hair, though. She looked like Bernard's summer girlfriend from Black Books.
Second support band was Mikelangelo, with a new backing band dubbed the One and a Half Night Stand. Think a cross between Elvis Presley and Nick Cave, only Eastern European. Friends have raved about him. I thought he was good, but he never really caught fire. Perhaps because so much of his stage act involves audience interaction, and he was trapped above them on the stage. I'll check him out in a smaller venue.
Showtime. Amanda Palmer strides onto stage. Audience cheers. She pounds the opening riff to "Sex Changes". Hits the wrong button. Her electric piano changes to a harpsichord.
She keeps playing, calling for someone to help her change it back. Mikelangelo comes out. Presses buttons. The harpsichord now has a drum machine backing.
She makes a joke about electroclash. Reboots the keyboard. Starts again.
Ah yes. It wouldn't be an Amanda Palmer gig without at least one technical fuck up.
But she's laughing all through it, and the audience laugh with her. This is the secret to Palmer's charisma: for all her painted eyebrows and Weimar Berlin dress-ups, she's real. This isn't a Britney Spears show, where all trace of humanity has been lip-synched and choreographed away. This a real woman, with real armpit hair, playing a real instrument, with real and explosive passion.
AMANDA FUCKING PALMER
She blitzes her way through a couple of old Dresden Dolls songs and one off her solo album. Her voice is massive.
There's something missing, though. That something is Brian Viglione, drummer for the Dresden Dolls. Without him, the songs just aren't as full, or visceral. They're songs you listen to, rather than dance to.
Palmer brings out a string quartet for some songs. Their version of "Have To Drive" sends a chill up my backbone. I cry during the chorus. It's so dark and lush.
The string quartet leave. Palmer plays some more solo songs, including a new one. She takes requests from the audience, and everyone does the 50's handclaps to "Oasis". She tells us how much she loves Melbourne.
She takes questions from the audience. What's the status of the Dresden Dolls? She'd love to tour with Brian again, and if they do, they would definitely come to Australia. When is she going to move here? She doesn't really live anywhere, at the moment, but she plans to stay here for several months next (Northern hemisphere) winter.
She plays a second new song, about Vegemite.
The Jane Austen Argument join her for a cover. I think it was a Regina Spektor song. Not sure. (This was when I noticed the hair.)
Palmer brings out a special guest: Paul Kelly. They sing Kelly's "Wintercoat" together, dark and bluesy and sparse.
Mikelangelo and band join them on stage. Amanda announces another special guest: Mick Harvey. They play "Henry Lee." (YouTube video here.)
Amanda Palmer, Paul Kelly, Mikelangelo and Mick Harvey are covering Nick Cave on stage at the Forum. The audience go insane . This is a A Moment.
(Well, half the audience go insane. The younger members are all wondering who the guy playing piano is. To be fair, Mick Harvey doesn't look like a legend of Australian music. He looks like someone's dad.)
Kelly and Harvey bow off. Palmer, Mikelangelo and band play a third new song. It's good, rich gypsy jazz. They gush about how beautiful the Forum is. Mikelangelo makes a joke about wanting to climb up to sing with the statues above the stage, but occupational health and safety laws prevent it.
Someone in the audience requests "Leeds United". The band don't know it. Palmer explains it to them in thirty seconds. This may all go horribly wrong, she says.
They blow it into orbit.
She plays a few more songs solo, then gets the string quartet back for "Runs in the Family" and finishes the show with a cover of Radiohead's "Exit Music (For A Film)".
Cheers. Cries for encore.
She comes back out. Rips through "Girl Anachronism" and "Half Jack". Exits stage right, rather than left like she did before.
The house lights stay down. Will there be a second encore?
Whispers run through the crowd. People point up.
Amanda Palmer is up amongst the statues. She plays Radiohead's "Creep" on ukulele, unamplified. The entire audience sing along.
It's magic. Just beautiful, utter magic.
AN INCOMPLETE SETLIST We're trying to puzzle this out. Our memories are not as good as they were. It doesn't help that there were three new songs, none of which have titles yet.
Sex Changes Missed Me Ampersand Astronaut [with Lyndon Chester string quartet] Have to Drive [with string quartet] The Time Has Come [New song - about beds] Coin Operated Boy Oasis [New song - about Vegemite] [cover song - Regina Spektor?] [with the Jane Austen Arguement] Wintercoat [cover, with Paul Kelly] Henry Lee [with Mikelangelo and band, Paul Kelly and Mick Harvey] [New song - about a doctor she had a crush on] [with Mikelangelo and band] Leeds United [with Mikelangelo and band] Runs In The Family [with string quartet] Exit Music (For A Film) [with string quartet]
'Have to Drive' doesn't normally move me, but this had tears dripping onto my collar bone.
The songs may be more dynamic when Brian's playing too, but each time I saw them play as the Dresden Dolls, one of them was in a foul mood. Playing solo, Amanda just seems to have so much fun.
The first half seemed flat to me, but then it went off. It seemed really odd to me to be seeing her play and not be hanging out with you guys, though. The bigger venue meant we couldn't find you, so we just stayed where we could see the stage.
Well I don't think its an AP-only thing, if thats' where you're trying to go. I have at least one friend who's regularly moved like that at gigs - I should say, she's by far the most into music person that I know. She has a broad indie taste and is always guaranteed to know the latest bands etc. But put her in a My Bloody Valentine or Sigur Ros gig and stand back and wait for the tears to flow.
I think its a style of music thing too maybe? this lush, dark sort of sound the OP describes seems to lend itself particularly well to an emotional and moving experience when done really well live.
FWIW I've never been a major fan and from the description of the gig am now looking around for a show near me. Some acts you just have to see live.
I'm serious: this is an entirely new, apparently widespread, phenomenon I'm discovering.
People crying because a much loved band hit the stage (ie Duran Duran) I have heard tell of now and then, but vast swathes of people moved to tears by the performance of a song? Totally new to me, and something I have not seen in the wild.
Those of us who have emotions and are moved by music do yes.
I am, rather incredibly much, both those things, yet only need one hand to count the number of times I've spontaneously burst into tears during a live performance.
Having said that though - there have been occasions. :)
The first time I saw Tom Jones, the tears there would be similar to blithespirit's Duran Duran experience. When The Stems started playing At First Sight on their farewell tour last Oct, that was the combination of never-having-got-to-hear-it-live-before-and-now-I'll-never-have-the-opportunity-again-and-that's-so-sad.
Hearing Died Pretty do an acoustic version of Sweetheart whilst wedged between the record aisles in Gaslight during a store appearance, was, I think, just being starkly surprised by how different they could make the song sound and how raw, but also because I felt particularly lonely in that situation, having been dropped-off at the door by bf who then drove around the city for half an hour before coming back to pick me up because that was apparently preferable to sharing the experience with me. *rolls eyes*
And then there's Mozart's Requiem. :) I'd been to other concerts, heard the whole thing done in its exquisite entirety, and it hadn't made me cry. But seeing just the opening section done during a choir's 50th anniversary show a while back just hit me in the face like a brick in a nanny handbag. Talk about visceral.
*shrug* I may've had a point lying around here somewhere. Methinks it's buggered off...
Having said that though - there have been occasions. :)
That is the key. There has been occasions. Despite being rather prone to being weepy myself it is not that common with me either. But the idea that is somehow some kind of strange modern phenomenon or something is just...odd.
Music is, at least to me, an innately emotional thing. And sometimes that emotion moves people to tears for any variety of reasons.
I've seen Mikelangelo live several times and own a few cd's, and they never failed to disappoint. They were all at small venues tho (Port Fairy Folk Festival and Spiegal Tent). That said the best gig - was a gypsy jam session, completely unrehearsed, about five different gypsy bands all sharing the stage at once. There was a dueling fiddles bit, and the fiddle from Doch won hands down.