Music: Amanda Palmer – Heaven, 02/09/11

If there’s one thing
to say about Amanda Palmer, it would be that she knows how to put on a show.
But this would be a pretty rubbish post if I just said that. It would also
completely underplay the magnitude of the performance I saw on Friday.

If you don’t already know Amanda Palmer, she is, as well as being a solo artist, one half of cabaret punk duo The Dresden Dolls, twin sister to Jason
Webley in Evelyn Evelyn, wife of novelist Neil Gaiman, and utterly bloody
brilliant. But let’s not carried away with awe (that will come later!); this
post is about the show.

Under the arches between Charing Cross and Embankment stations is the famous gay nightclub Heaven, and the venue for the show. Doors were early, and I made it just in time to see the first what ended up being six special guests, the sublime Australian pair The Jane Austen Argument. Like a lot of my friends I first heard JAA when Palmer did a duet with them on her album Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under. This led to downloading their EPs, and swiftly falling in love. They have a gentleness to them, pierced with irony and strength in their lyrics that genuinely makes me well up. It’s really beautiful stuff, and sadly they only did a 3 song set, but I was happy to have had the chance to see them seeing as I couldn’t make their ‘twitnic’ the day before (see their Twitter 
for explanations!).

The Jane Austen Argument

Next was the ever amazing Bitter Ruin. I’m so pleased that they are starting to
get the recognition they deserve. They make twisted, haunting music that draws
you in, shakes you up, spits you out and then wraps you back up again. It’s
quite an experience. I first saw them over a year ago when my uni housemate
invited them to play in our tiny living room in York. From then on I’ve tried
to see them at any show I can get to, partly to support them, partly to
experience their music first hand again. On Friday they were entrancing and
perfect; the audience were mesmerised by their music and flattered by their
friendliness. I’ve no doubt that new fans were cemented that night.

Bitter Ruin

And so on with the show. Bursting onto the stage in a haze of garments covered in sequins and glitter (brought along by the audience as requested by AFP on Twitter), the songs came thick and fast, every single one a surprise and played as though it was the first time we’d all heard them. She started with the rousing and stirring ‘Astronaut’ which was enough to make my eyes well up, not because of the song itself, but because it is music that I have listened to at home for years and that I adore, and here I was watching the woman herself! Although she has enough material to fill an entire show, AFP mixed in covers, duets and Dresden Dolls songs which kept me excited throughout – each song was a surprise, delicately prepared and presented in its own unique way.

Amanda Palmer with violinist Una Palliser

Amanda Palmer isn’t just a one woman band when she performs; she shares the stage generously with other talented musicians who help to give her music the soul it deserves. The beautiful and ridiculously talented violin player Una Palliser (on loan from the Shakira tour apparently!) accompanied on a few songs, bringing the depth of a professional recording to songs like ‘Missed Me’. A seemingly random horn section that AFP told the audience she’d only met that night took a shot at playing with her on some new material and got it spot on. Duets came thick and fast with the members of both support bands coming back on stage to perform with her (Bitter Ruin sang The Dresden Dolls’ ‘Delilah’ with her which literally had me standing with my mouth open in awe); her husband Neil Gaiman sang at one point which was absolutely adorable – forget Brangelina, Gaiman/Palmer are the coolest and most genuine couple I’ve ever witnessed (and I hate public displays of affection normally!); singer-songwriter Tom Robinson led the entire audience and the whole AFP crew in a rendition of ‘Glad to be Gay’; and comic Tim Minchin, fresh from the Comedy Proms, surprised everyone when he popped on stage and performed ‘You Grew on Me’.

The Gaiman/Palmers

The Gaiman/Palmers

Topped off with audience requests on the ukulele and an aerobic dance lesson from belly dancer Super Kate (where AFP came into the crowd and danced with the audience!), the entire performance was a staggering 2.5hrs long!

Warming up with Super Kate for the dance lesson!

Finishing with everyone on stage (including Tim Minchin in the background!)

Amanda Palmer’s enthusiasm and love for her audience and her work radiates through everyone that encounters her. Her music is simply ridiculous in its brilliance, and I honestly can’t flaw it. Touching on every subject, regardless of taboos, she brings fresh, unadulterated beauty to every performance and every song and I’m so grateful I was able to be a part of such an event.

So who’s jealous?!


*all photos belong to me. Please don’t use them elsewhere without asking first!


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