Sunday, 12 July 2015

Amanda Palmer at Union Chapel and Waterstones

How is it possible that I was graced with the presence of Amanda Palmer over a month ago and I haven't yet blogged about it? I don't understand that at all! So it's time to make up for it.

I saw Amanda at Union Chapel on 8 June, the show that was filmed in its entirety courtesy of the Patrons (of which I am one, through the Patreon system). It's available to watch on YouTube and is posted below - scroll in 35 minutes for Amanda walking on stage in all her shimmering and golden pregnancy.

I've seen Amanda play there a couple of times before so she knows the space and knows how to work it. I suspect that's why she starts out with a voice-only folk song and how great her voice sounds, powerful and sweeping as she sings out from the pulpit. And yes, it really is a pulpit since it's a working church that also hosts gigs, shows films and hosts performance events. And you sit on pews. On that night, I was up in the balcony so had a great view of the stage.

Amanda was on stage for over two hours playing a mix of Dresden Dolls songs, covers and her solo songs. Caitlin Moran came on as a guest to do a reading from her latest book and some banter and Le Gateau Chocolat did a song. It was a fun show but I worried about her being barefoot on that stage. Favourite moments included the lovely, heart-felt 'Ampersand', the minxy 'Map of Tasmania', the sad 'The Bed Song', 'Delilah' and a most fabulous 'Leeds United' as the closer. It was nice to hear 'Astronaut' for the first time in ages - that was the opening song when she toured her first album. A song I never enjoy is 'Bigger on the Inside', a song Amanda wrote during the bad times a couple of years ago when she was villified across the internet and starts off, 'You'd think I shot their children...'. It makes me angry. How dare they. It's at 1:57:00 in the video.

Watch the video and you'll get a much better feel for what the gig was like rather than anything I can write. I've seen Amanda many times now but this was a special gig that will linger in the memory. She is so much bigger than when I saw her early solo shows at places like Bush Hall and the ICA and the shows are slicker and more professional with better lights and sound. At one point she asked if anyone in the audience had been there back in 2009 for her last shows at Union Chapel and there weren't many of us. She has grown in stature since then. Maybe this show was special since it's been so long since the last live gigs? Maybe. But I wrote in my notebook after writing down the setlist,'I fell in love with AFP again tonight' and I did.

The way to experience Amanda Fucking Palmer is live on stage and I'm so glad she managed to come back to London before the baby comes since it'll probably be a while before we see her afterwards. Thank you Amanda.

But wait, there's more! A couple of days later Amanda was at Waterstone's book shop in Trafalgar Square for a signing and it's been so long since I've had an Amanda-hug (and I've never had a pregnant Amanda-hug). We joined the queue at about 6pm and it already snaked around the shop.So many people to see one pregnant lady. The queue continued snaking away behind us. And then Amanda appeared, walked through the queue smiling her head off and going into the back rooms to get ready and take her place at the signing table... Three and a half hours later we finally bask in the presence of AFP, so many times after a gig but those days are gone.

She has this amazing ability to focus on you and just you to the exclusion of everyone else - it feels like you are at the centre of the world for those seconds or minutes... or at least that's how she made me feel. And I got the long-awaited hug too! And she wrote 'Punk cabaret is freedom' in my copy of her book, the most important Dolls slogan. My cup runneth over.

It's ten years since I first saw Amanda play and sing at Patti Smith's Meltdown festival on the Southbank and that's when I got my first autograph and met her when I bought the Dolls' first album from the merch stand. Who'd have guessed I'd still be seeing her ten years later? As a wise man said to you in Waterstone's, Amanda, if the bad times come again just remember that you are loved. Because you are.

Was it worth queuing for three and a half hours to meet Amanda for a couple of minutes? O yes.

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