Amanda Palmer at the Paradise, November 24, 2008
MOURNER: Amanda waked herself, complete with "Abide in Me," the auctioning off of "personal
effects," and "Living on a Prayer."
Now it can be revealed: Amanda Palmer has a stage mom. In the midst of a long-winded multi-song introduction to the set proper, Ms. Palmer (the mom, not the solo Dresden Doll) offered a eulogy (in keeping with the theme of Amanda's solo debut, Who Killed Amanda Palmer), expounding to a capacity audience at the Paradise on the topic of her daughter's piano tutelage — Amanda began playing at age two and a half and had mastered "Chopsticks" by the age of four. Sheet music was handed out as Mama Palmer led the crowd through the hymn "Abide in Me." Eventually Ms. Palmer's daughter emerged through the crowd in a spectral white veil and was hoisted by her dancers into the air and up on stage. And then the full-on Amanda worship commenced, the crowd shrieking as she sat alone at the spotlit Kurzweil center stage and began pounding away the frenetic piano chug of solo-album highlight "Astronaut."
The thing about Amanda Palmer is that everything you think about her is probably true. Yes, she's a talented, unique artist capable of whipping her faithful into a frenzy of confessional and emotional catharsis. Yes, she's self-indulgent, not above pandering to her fans, all the better to bask in unconditional adulation. And for an artist as collaborative as Palmer, it's striking how much of her music is just her, alone. Even though she and Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione have been taking a break from each other, you might expect to see her fronting a crack back-up band at this point in her solo career, but she seems bent on going it alone, for better and worse.
The show was frequently interrupted by non-musical tomfoolery, and that was a welcome respite from the intense downer-ism of her material (like the school-shooting ballad "Strength Through Music," and the Dresden Dolls child-abduction ditty "Slide"). But the nadir was reached when Amanda and her crew auctioned off some tour merch from the stage between songs, fetching almost $800 for a guitar from some rube in the audience. Fortunately for Palmer, this audience was willing to accept almost anything that happened on stage as some kind of artistic personal statement. If the selling of one's belongings is an appropriate act for the recently departed, then the sing-songy blow-through of Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" closed the night like the end of a particularly boozy wake.
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