Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Amanda Palmer (solo) - Troubadour - August 4,2008

I'm not at all surprised that Amanda Palmer sold out the Troubadour. She's not only the consumate performer, she's a force of nature. To deny her one would have to have deadened senses. She belongs on the stage because, in any crowd, she would invariably be the most interesting person in the room.

But before she got to the stage on Monday night (August 4, 2008), I walked into the Troubadour as opener Vermillion Lies were on their first or second song. And I was immediately drawn in by these two women, one dressed as the Mad Hatter (complete with drawn on moustache), whose bold, theatrical, Kurt Weill-informed, cabaret/punk is highlighted by astonishingly sweet harmonies that, amazingly, stay just this side of sickening. Zoe Boekbinder plays guitar and accordion, an extraordinary kazoo and turns her lips into a trumpet which had the audience roaring. Oh, and she sings, beautifully, bitter little ditties, sardonic in nature, that aim high and always hit their mark.
Songs with titles like "Circus Apocalypse" and "Global Warming" give you an idea of the epic nature of their themes.

Once the Mad Hatter removed her hat, Kim Boekbinder demanded the audience repeatedly ask her "what's in the box". She pulled a progression of unlikely musical instruments from it, including a typewriter, a barbecue (which she played beautifully) and a wooden marionette she forced to tap dance for us to provide taps and percussion for one song. She also is the vocal equal of her sister and, together, they create an unearthly sound. She also plays an accomplished keyboard.

First exposure and I fell in love with this band, so open, honest, liberated and just plain fun. Probably my favorite song of theirs was the one about the sisters connected by the ends of their "Long Red Hair" with it's great narrative flow and it's ironic and moving climax. It felt a little like going to a haunted house and seeing two high spirited ghosts entertain each other and any other corpses that may be present.

They even taught us some Russian for one sing-a-long.

Even though I had a pass to the upstairs lounge, I was so intrigued by Vermillion Lies, I didn't want to leave the stage area, so I missed a chance to say hello to Amanda, who was upstairs mingling. But I'm not sorry to have seen this remarkable band.

When Amanda Palmer came on stage to roars of approval, she held up placards which...slowly...revealed...how happy...she was...that we...had come. Then stepping to the microphone, she began with a song by Ben Folds, except it was Ben Folds voice coming out of Amanda. She lip synched the entire song. Perfectly. Then, as Amanda, she sat at her keyboard and just relaxed. She cajoled, proded and seduced the audience with the sheer audacity of her talent. If she were to only play the piano, I would be satisfied, if she only sang, that would be O. K. too, she could just keep telling stories and I would have listened for hours. but to put it all together in proper measures, that's a remarkable talent.

Performing songs from her forthcoming CD Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, to be released September 16, half the crowd already knew "Ampersand" and "Astronaut feat Zoe" from the internet, (Amanda saluted the internet for getting music to the people) and they went wild for "Coin Operated Boy", which always gets that reaction. Her song about the needle was both disturbing and tragic.

You realize, as you're listening to her new unfamiliar material, that you're hanging on every word to see where the story goes, much like reading a novel when you can't stop plowing ahead to see what happens next. When you read her blog you realize what a gifted writer she is.

Between songs she pulled questions the audience had written from a box which, naturally, were a little weird, but which she addressed with wit, candor and intelligence. Like: "What's your favorite opera? And no Mozart!", which perplexed her, I mean, Mozart! She admitted to not being a fan of opera (which I can relate to and understand), but said she loved Philip Glass' Einstein At the Beach with it's bizarre opening with people singing numbers over and over in repeated patterns and rhythms. Figures! She told a funny story of being in a dormitory and putting the CD of that opening on repeat play and leaving the dorm house...often. She must have been a hell of a dormmate. She also said Brian Viglione, her compatriot in The Dresden Dolls, sent his regards on the first night of this solo tour. He said, "Party like Hell" or something like it.

One particularly favorite moment came during "Runs in the Family" when I recognized myself in her situation of an artist trying to survive family. The rapid, staccato delivery reminiscent of "Girl Anachronism" and appropriate to the tumble of emotions here.

When she brought out her father, Jack Palmer I believe is his name, to sing and play guitar with her on Leonard Cohen's "The Night Comes On" the evening reached an emotional climax I'm hard pressed to describe. I was so moved by the obvious love between these two, combined with the rush of words of one of Mr. Cohen's finest lyrics and all the memories his music evokes, I was a little overcome. Mr. Palmer sings a little like Leonard Cohen and a little like Johnny Cash and when Amanda came in with a "Suzanne"-style harmony it was gorgeous. Even the whole McCabe and Mrs. Miller connection came flooding in on me.

The evening has to go down as one of my favorite concerts. But I'm making that phrase meaningless because I see unforgettable concerts sometimes a few times a week and say it so frequently at work, they just roll their eyes. But this concert was inspiring. It makes me want to be a better writer and, I think, that's high praise indeed.

I wish I had this concert in a box to give as a gift to all the people I care about.

Had to rush home to videotape the incredible appearance by Fleet Foxes on The David Letterman Show. Tough to sit through the crap around it, but their performance was, dare I say, starmaking.


No comments: