What’s the longest set you’ve seen an artist perform? Once I saw the Cure play three hours. I hear the Dead used to keep going until they were just too high. Amanda Palmer took her There Will Be No Intermission tour to the Ace Hotel and kept that stage all to herself for four and a half hours. To have that kind of endurance or even enough to share, you have to consider the stage a second home of sorts, you also have to be well versed in more than music, in Amanda’s case she is a poet, storyteller, woman, mother, feminist, survivor, mime, and warrior, and we got every one of those during this show.
The sort of people that came out in droves and filled the legendary Theatre at the Ace Hotel for this performance were misfits of every stripe, color, gender, and age. The stories she regaled this diverse group of diehards ranged from various parts of her life that knit together a quilt of so many moments of her life threaded tightly together by the themes of womanhood and personhood.
With four and a half hours to perform (that time only capped by the venue’s curfew, not Amanda’s desire to stop) Amanda chose to relish in the details. We learned about Amanda’s first abortion at 17 which her mother paid for with her Visa credit card. We learned about Amanda’s friend and mentor, Anthony, who moved in next to her and introduced her to Italian-American toughness, meditation, buddhism, Eastern philosophy, yoga, and uncompromising compassion and how the one time he ever told her what to do it was to dump her heroin addict boyfriend. We learned about how she took the Dresden Dolls from a small Boston club act to an internationally acclaimed group with a signature sound and signature niche as the DIY band of the century, throwing 20 person house parties for Kickstarter donors the country-round. Just imagine how much you learn about an artist listening to them for four and a half hours. I feel like I was launched into the same stratosphere of Amanda Palmer fans as those who were around since day 1.
The set began with Amanda’s husband, Neil Gaiman, giving a disclaimer before the show asking us to do everything from ponder reality to meet a stranger during the one intermission of the show. Amanda then floated over to her Steinway & Sons piano and opened the show with the song “Judy Blume” off her latest album, There Will Be No Intermission. After finishing up the soft, sad, and reverent song, Amanda told us that she had neglecting the inspiration Judy Blume had on her as an artist until this album. Amanda then went into the musical forces that shaped her from her original favorites like Madonna, to being introduced to The Cure and later the groundbreaking discovery of Nick Cave. My heart sang when she mentioned Current 93.
Amanda’s next song “Runs in the Family” changed up the pace, tone, and cadence of her set to something more furious, crashing, and satirical. This is how the whole concert went, Amanda passed between different parts of her character, from the funny, to the sad, to the hopeful, to the defeated, the victorious, the loving, and everything in between and abstract, on the piano and on the ukulele.
One of the most powerful moments of the set was when Amanda spoke about her reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing where she went viral for writing a poem that tried to empathize with the terrorist called A Poem For Dzhokhar. Trying to breach any public perception of the man and see him as the damaged soul he was, Amanda caught a lot of flack for writing the piece. This is the kind of artist she is though, challenging. Not everything Amanda Palmer does sits right with everyone, even her fans. I suppose that’s a big part of why she’s so intriguing in the first place.
My biggest takeaway from this performance was the feeling of how refreshing it was to hear someone be so vulnerable as to share their most painful and heavy stories. The music was wonderful, but Amanda has found a way to weaponize all the bull shit she’s gone through and turn it into a sword as well as a torch to light the way. Her next performance is in Georgia, which she is turning into a giant rally to protest their recent abortion ban on pregnancies longer than 6 weeks. I’m sure many a vein will pop out the neck of a furious republican politician, while many a young girl will be inspired yet again by Amanda Palmer, the shining star and fascist slayer.
Words by: Rob Shepyer
Photos by: Jessica Moncrief