“Does anyone else feel like things are going to get really bad then maybe get better?” Amanda Palmer asked her sold-out crowd on Sunday night. After the applause died down, she sat thoughtfully at the piano and said, “The only thing I can offer you…punk music is going to be really fucking good during Trump’s presidency.”
Having been to ten Amanda Palmer shows (including orchestrating her Chicago Kickstarter party and spending time with her in the studio), I have seen her perform nearly every single one of her songs. The 40-year-old artist created several albums as half of the Dresden Dolls with drummer Brian Viglione and has since put out two solo albums (one on a label one through the help of Kickstarter and her fans), a collaborative record with her father, and covered a huge variety of other artists’ songs. It’s uncommon for me to hear something new at one of her shows, but it doesn’t make them any less important. She started the show with “The Killing Type” and played other hits such as “Guitar Hero,” “Delilah,” and “Strength Through Music.”
Amanda has a relationship with her fans that often takes priority over anything else. She has relied on them to fund her album, pay for her meals, and provide her with a warm place to sleep after a long show (after the Chicago Kickstarter party, she slept on my friends’ couch and ate breakfast with their then 3-year-old daughter). In return, she converses with her fans on a deeply personal level, learning the names of those who frequently attend her shows and accepting every gift with a hug and a long moment of eye contact.
On Sunday, Amanda tweeted that she wanted people to bring offerings to the show for Leonard Cohen, who had died just days before. She asked everyone to come to the stage and place their offering in her ukulele case while she somberly played “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong.” Dozens of people walked to the stage and placed flameless candles, photos, flowers, and small figurines. If you thought Amanda was playing a part to satisfy her fans, you would likely find everything a bit dramatic. But, for those of us who have found comfort in her work, the evening was wonderfully cathartic.
In between long discussions with the audience, Amanda played “Confessions Of A Mother,” an 11-minute lyrical homage to her 11-month-old son, Ash, and the many times she was certain she was going to accidentally kill her child. Everyone laughed and many commiserated, including those in the crowd who had brought their own children along. Wanting to share everything with her fans, Amanda brought Ash out on stage for a bit, accompanied by her husband and often partner-in-crime, Neil Gaiman. Gaiman read a Leonard Cohen piece, “Democracy,” while Amanda played the piano. As the show came to a close, Amanda moved the crowd to tears with a cover of “Hallelujah” before hugging and thanking those who wanted to see her afterwards.
As people left the show, many were unusually quiet. Just as Leonard Cohen often lowered his hat to thank those who came to see him, Amanda’s fans had seen a musician who lives and breathes for human interaction and only ranks her success based on the love that she receives.