with Neil Gaiman
The Social / Orlando, FL • December 13, 2009
Hundreds of young people could be seen lined up for blocks along Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando on December 13th. Had this been a Friday, one could have suspected that these fabulous-looking, pale-faced scenesters were waiting for a late night screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. However, this was a beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon. The fragrance of patchouli and clove cigarettes permeated the sidewalk in front of The Social nightclub as several uniformed police officers stood by. Clearly, this was no movie showing or random rave party. These faithful (primarily female) folks were patiently waiting to experience an event — a rare, solo performance by Dresden Dolls siren and all-round subculture guru, Amanda Palmer.
A singer, songwriter, thespian, and book-peddler, Amanda Palmer is one of very few on today’s scene brave enough to poke her head above water, making bold artistic statements while treading a sea of pop pabulum.
Known for making rather grand entrances, Ms. Palmer began the sold-out 5pm performance from atop the bar in the back of the club. Providing her own ukulele accompaniment and without the benefit of a microphone, she quickly brought the deafening cheers to total silence as she serenaded her flock. Then, with arms wide open, she sucked down an entire beer from a bottle she’d placed nearly half down her throat. Once quenched, she wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her silky robe, gestured forward and made her way to the stage as the crowd once again roared with praise.
This show would include no back-up band. With one electric piano, one voice and one very compelling presence, Palmer mesmerized the audience with her often interactive 90-minute set. After the first song, she stood up and asked for assistance as she began moving her own piano, microphone and monitor speakers. “I need to move back a little,” Palmer announced. “I can’t see the people on that side of the room from up there.”
Early on she invited fans to offer requests. “Before you start shouting,” she instructed the crowd, “remember, it helps if I know the song.” Among the slew of Dresden Dolls and solo tunes immediately shouted out was a request for John Lennon’s classic, “Imagine.” Palmer jokingly commented that she’d give it a try if somebody had a copy of the lyrics. Five minutes later a young woman jumped onstage with handwritten lyrics she’d transcribed from her iPhone. Making good on her promise, Palmer managed her way through most of the song. When she finally got stumped during one passage, a guy in the crowd shouted, “E-major!” Palmer grinned with delight, realizing the guy was right and offered to buy him a beer upon completing the tune. One of Palmer’s solo tracks, “Oasis” was also requested by an audience member. “I can play that one,” she replied. “That’s one of my happy songs,” — which was a bit ironic considering the song’s video is full of images of date rape and an abortion procedure.
The show was then transformed into a Q&A session as Palmer fielded questions that fans had placed in a box located on the merch table before the show.
“Why don’t you shave?” one fan asked.
“Because I don’t like being forced to do anything,” Palmer replied. “But the sheets sure feel nice when I do,” she added.
After a few more tunes which included such Dresden Dolls staples as “Missed Me” and “Sex Changes,” Palmer was joined onstage by Neil Gaiman, who created the stories accompanying the photos in Palmer’s new book, Who Killed Amanda Palmer. After a heartfelt introduction from Palmer, Gaiman treated fans to spoken excerpts from the book.
“I’m getting thrown out by a bunch of assholes!” a guy shouted from the back of the room as four beefy bouncers escorted him out the door. “I’ll need to ask what that was about later,” Palmer commented on the mic as she began to wrap up her set with one of her current numbers, “Leeds United.”
Although she exited the stage in a normal fashion, Palmer soon reappeared for her encore the same way she began her set, from atop the bar. Serenading once again with her ukulele, she led the crowd in a thunderous sing-a-long version of Radiohead’s “Creep.”
An after-show meet-and-greet took place immediately following Ms. Palmer’s performance. Hundreds of adoring fans quickly mobbed the merch area, desperate for an opportunity to make personal contact with the underground icon. In fact, in Amanda Palmer’s case, the connection between artist and fan is so great, her followers seemed likely to run into the street and gleefully murder babies, had she instructed them to do so.
Amanda Palmer: www.amandapalmer.net