As Amanda Palmer starts her show from the pulpit it’s almost as if she’s preaching to her crowd about how to ask, and how to be vulnerable. The night is riddled with stories, songs and a rare, bare it all moment as she allows a fan to open her book to one of her most unguarded points, recounting her ability to receive in the form of a massage, in the midst of the ‘a poem of Dzhokhar’ incident. Despite it being her book tour, this is the one moment at which the book is mentioned, the rest of the night unfolding in an almost autobiographic nature, only with the songs leading the narrative.
From Map of Tasmania (during which we’re encouraged to shout the lines ‘Oh, My God! Fuck it!’ in the direction of a picture of Jesus), to the duet with tour manager Whitney Moses in the form of Dresden Doll’s Delilah, Palmer packs the night with emotion and conviction. There’s no pretence here and Palmer is willing to admit to the faults in the previous evenings webcast show, which means later when she forgets the words to Ukulele Anthem, rather than being perceived as sloppy she leaves the stage being seen as human.
It’s this which is Palmer’s calling card, and the unabashed songs about abortion which come thick and fast only serve to back this up. It’s almost as if she’s trying to expel a few demons before the immanent birth of her child. Later it’s her cover of Garfunkel and Oates’ Pregnant Women Are Smug which manages to raise a few laughs, lifting the mood after more sober songs. Nevertheless it’s Bigger on the Inside and The Bed Song which seem to truly capture Palmers confessional style, and it’s these songs which hush the heightened crowd to a respectful silence, leaving them hanging on every word.
Elsewhere we’re giving an inside look into her relationship with Neil Gaiman, in the form of Vegemite (The Black Death), and her brand of feminism in Ampersand. Yet for me it’s her haunting cover of Ben Fold’s Brick which really allows her to marry the theme of her book with her songs. Though Palmer has been pulled up on her ability to (perhaps over) empathise before, it’s this point where it feels like she acknowledges her more inward facing confessional style only delivers one side of a story.
In short, it’s her ability to fuse humour, wry irony, and to open herself up to explore her biggest vulnerabilities through the medium of song that makes Palmer such a engaging artist. When she calls her show ‘an evening with Amanda Palmer’ she truly means it. By calling on them for song choices, for book readings, and for the occasional forgotten lyrics you begin to realise that she is not someone who is willing to sit and be worshiped from afar, but she instead invites the fans in for an intimate evening and ensures they walk with her for every beat of the night.