Amanda Fucking Palmer.
This isn’t a gig, it’s a communion.
It’s not even about the music, not really. Which isn’t to say that the music isn’t tremendous, but that’s not the point: it’s about Amanda. It’s about the event. It’s about the costumes. It’s about the crowd, who’ve been primed on Twitter to come razzle-dazzled-up and who have obliged, mightily. It’s about Neil Gaiman, hovering by the entrance in a frock coat, looking proud and happy and, “I wrote the best Doctor Who episode this year and Amanda Palmer married me” in a pleasingly low-key kind of way.
It’s about the fact that Amanda Palmer is a cyber-queen, who uses crowd-sourcing in her creative life like no one else I’ve heard of yet: she clicks her fingers on Twitter and is dressed, supported, videoed, re-tweeted, disseminated, argued with, accommodated, provided with instant horn-sections, video extras, venues, entertainment, new friends; you name it, AFP commands it, in the blink of a new era’s eye. It’s how she lives and works, post-Roadrunner break-up. Her network of friends/colleagues is a remarkably efficient and creative resource, and stretches out to embrace the whole vast army of her online fans. Though ‘fans’ is an out-of-date term to describe what these people are, given the participatory nature of their relationship. They have ownership of what’s happening here tonight, and that might explain why the audience is pretty much the nicest, sweetest, happiest crowd I’ve seen at a gig, perhaps ever.
It’s about the way she is using this small tour to test out four new songs on the ears of the faithful: “Basically, if you guys don’t dance to them, they don’t get recorded”. I don’t know any of their names but they got us dancing. The new album – her first proper release since 2008’s Who Killed Amanda Palmer – is going to be worth the wait.
It’s about ‘Map Of Tasmania’ (if you don’t know the term look it up): a light and ludicrous ditty which manages to combine a paean to unshaven pudenda with a clamorous call to arms (“They don’t play the song on the radio/They don’t show the tits on the video/They don’t know that we are the media!/They don’t know that we start the mania!”) and which, during one of her crowd-sourced set-list moments, was requested by a line of people at the back of the venue by holding their hands up in the shape of cunts. (I don’t even know if that song exists as a physical, conventionally-released entity but it certainly doesn’t need to: it’s out there in fan-made videos and remixes and YouTubed ninja-gig performances, a totally new way of distributing music, as far from handing over your pocket money for a disc of black vinyl as Luton is from 4chan.)
It’s about how AFP’s assistant, SuperKate, opens the show with a sizzling goth-girl belly dance, all tattoos and sinuous moves. And later reappears in nightmare 80s Lycra to lead the entire venue in some pumping calisthenics, as a prelude to the band hopping off stage and into the audience to bop wildly to ‘The Safety Dance’; we and they are lost in this gurning bounce of a tune as if we were steaming away all hot’n’sweaty at the school disco, except that there’s Amanda Palmer, like a human glitterball, whirling around next to me.
It’s about the fact that after our exertions Amanda Palmer says, “You’re getting a reward for that. I thought, ‘”What’s the nearest thing to candy that you can play?’” and the violinist strikes up the first absurd chittering chords of INXS’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’. Which, as you know, and as I most certainly do because I bought the bloody single from a Woolworths bargain bin for 20p in 1988, is pretty much the most marvellously overblown chugchugchug horror of a song ever ponced about to in stadia the world over, every note as portentious as a cavalcade of warlocks. And Amanda Palmer and her band do it justice. Bah Bah BAH BOOM! There’s a set list from this same tour that suggests that they did ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ justice the night before: there are no guilty pleasures in the Palmer lexicon, only delights, uncomplicated and wide-eyed and shiny.
This isn’t Kasabian. This isn’t bloody Beady Eye. This is a party in the Church of Palmer. It would obliterate any posey white boy laddishness it encountered in an explosion of mascara and sass and spangles and pansexuality, like matter meeting antimatter.
She also covers Radiohead’s ‘Idioteque’ (no, er, surprises if you’ve heard her ukulele Radiohead covers album) as a sparkly minimalist chant and Le Tigre’s ‘Deceptacon’ (which they introduce as a public education service and rightly so: it’s canonical girl pop) and plays it just as breathlessly fiery as the original, so it’s not all hammed-up Big Rock, despite the guitarist’s Marc Bolan locks/aviator shades/glittered skinny-Tee get-up, or the drummer’s naked torso and the black sequined sash around his hips. (Damn, she picks sexy folk to play with: the pretty violinist is slinky and feline and when AFP duets with Georgia from support Bitter Ruin on her old band Dresden Dolls’ ‘Delilah’, the entire room is abuzz with pheromones.)
This isn’t really about the music, how clever or pertinent it is or is not. It’s about the moment and the magic and the goddamn show.
Oh, OK, if you must: it’s about LOVE.
And sex, of course. That too. Neither love nor sex sticks to one genre. Love is as present in Palmer’s Weill-inflected punk cabaret moments with their clustered piano chords and smokey-eyed clattery Modernist dramatics (‘Girl Anachronism’; ‘Missed Me’; ‘Mrs O’:) as it is in her renditions of the shouty rock-out numbers from Who Killed Amanda Palmer (‘Leeds United’; ‘Guitar Hero’) that stick their tongues out at the world and dare you to disapprove. Love’s there in skyfuls in among the extravagant crashes of ‘Astronaut’, bruised but still aloft, and caught in the throat of ‘Delilah’’s aching swoops; there’s love for life in ‘Oasis’ (banned by some radio stations for mixing giggles and teen popfandom with the topic of abortion, as if any experience, no matter how grim, could possibly be encompassed with one reaction) and love spilling out of ‘In My Mind’, which reduced me to tears at the Concorde.
Love for the world and love for performance, no matter the kind of music running through her heart.
Amanda Fucking Palmer is truly some kind of new-minted goddess. You’d better love her too.