Sunday, 31 May 2015

An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at Hackney Empire

On Thursday evening we made the trek over to Hackney to see Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman do a show to promote the edition of the 'New Statesman' magazine on the theme of 'saying the unsayable' that they guest-edited. The event was hosted by the 'New Statesman' and, just in case anyone forgot there were big banner adverts reminding us.

The stage was set like an elaborate morning room with a grand piano, a chez longs and a gold embossed chair along with various props including a giant gramaphone. And lots of trailing wires for microphones - I worried about Amanda wandering around with ample opportunity to trip up (she didn't). Both Neil and Amanda were dressed in black and Amanda's pregnancy 'bump' was very prominent - the proud mother-to-be showing off.

The show followed the pattern of the 'Evening with…' shows they toured in America a few years ago and released as a CD, a mix of chat, recitals and songs. Neil opened the show with his poem about freedom of speech, 'Credo', which is printed in the 'Statesman. He read a story about hosting a table at a literary awards ceremony and another about animals vanishing so mankind started experimenting on and eating babies (Amanda crawled under a throw for comfort at this point).  They talked and interviewed each other about having to censor themselves on Twitter and occasions when they hadn't censored themselves and the consequences. There were some interesting tales.

There weren't many songs - Amanda said she didn't know there was going to be a piano - but the first one was 'The Killing Type' and later we had 'Brick' (a Ben Folds song) and a bit of 'Oasis', all with Amanda on piano. She also accompanied Neil singing the song they wrote together, 'I Google You. Amanda also played the touching 'Bigger on the Inside' on ukelele.

And they had guests, some of whom they'd invited to write articles for their edition of the 'Statesman'.  Mitch Benn was loud and played a song, Hayley Campbell read her tale of the end of Twitter, Andrew O'Neill was deliberately shocking in his jokes (well, not that shocking really) and Roz Kaveney read a story. All came together for a general discussion at the end and were very gabby.

The show ended with Amanda playing the marvellous 'Ukelele Anthem' a song I first heard when she played it at her small show at the British Library a few years ago, with Neil crouching beside her and holding up the lyric sheets because it was so new and she hadn't learned it yet. She had to stop half-way through for water to help clear her throat and then started up again. Then it was clap clap clap and the show was over. They were on stage for about 2.5 hours so that's not bad at all!

It was lovely to see Amanda again, after nearly two years. The last time I saw her was at the Roundhouse with the Grand Theft Orchestra when she was touring 'Theatre Is Evil'. That seems so long ago given her previous touring habits. It's 10 years since I first saw her play as part of Patti Smith's Meltdown festival in 2005 and that was also the first time I met her when she signed my copy of 'The Dresden Dolls' album. I'm seeing her again in just over a week at Union Chapel for her own show - I'm looking forward to that!

PS: thanks to whoever took the photos of the pair on the stage I found on the Internet!

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