DIY performance at its finest
Amanda Palmer - Live At Village Underground, London

And so it came to pass that Amanda Palmer, former college pin-up of the disenfranchised and frontwoman of punk-cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, became a REAL news story in 2012. Using fan funding site Kickstarter, Palmer rallied the fans she’s been carefully nurturing over the years and raised over a million dollars to fund her new album, and group, The Grand Theft Orchestra. A touring, worldwide, multi-media, arts extravaganza now funded and underway we happily find ourselves in Shoreditch ready to see the second of these exotic shows. Erupting into new single ‘Do It With A Rockstar’ the tone for the night is set - things are going to be loud, proud, passionate and with her kimono soon thrown off, sexy.

Palmer’s songcraft has certainly grown since her last release four years ago, the chaos of the Dolls remains but with the full backing of a traditional band who can also happily bounce between other instruments the songs soar. Even old hits such as the wonderfully sinister ‘Miss Me’ is spiced up when the band switch instruments not once, but three times during the number. With bassist Jherek Bischoff also being an accomplished arranger the band rope in a locally sourced string quarter to add texture to some of the new LP’s more sombre moments.

‘Trout Heart Replica’, a slow burning ode to a life of confinement is quite simply one of the best things Palmer has produced and is a clear stand out of ‘Theatre is Evil’. Seven minutes of hair raising tenderness over and the crowd is then immediately delivered ‘The Bed Song’, an absolute tear jerker enhanced live with a haunting new string arrangement. Sure it’s angsty and piano led but filled with such lyrical insight and sincerity that it reaches a maturity and weight rarely seen with similar set ups.

A special guest is announced and much to Clash’s delight Palmer’s husband, super-author and messy haired man Neil Gaiman appears onstage. Accompanied by duelling saws (yes saws) Gaiman reads/sings through Leon Payne’s cult ‘60s number ‘Psycho’ in his trademark narration voice much to the delight and laughter of the crowd. Back to proceedings and The Grand Theft Orchestra burst into ‘Girl Anachronism’ with heavy metal ferocity, the tunes schizophrenic lyrics screamed back by every member present.

A local horn section (“Sourced just before sound check”) appear and new cut ‘Berlin’ is added some good punch while the almost Gaga worthy synth of ‘Want It Back’ borders perilously close to top 40 territory. Eleven pm long gone and some of the crowd are regretfully slipping away for last tubes, but the band still have energy and ‘Olly Olly Oxen Free’ ends a night filled with laughter, tears, and joy and a suitably defiant high. She is known as Amanda Fu***** Palmer and she does things her way, we’re just lucky to have the kind of artist who sits in her bra performing whatever she damn well pleases with a big grin of her face.

Words by Sam Walker-Smart
Photo by Richard Gray

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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