Why would you bother to love your own brother when love’s so expensive these days?

Amanda Palmer – Sjöhistorika Museet, Stockholm; October 12th, 2019

After just missing the afternoon gi in Copenhagen I was glad I had booked an earlier train to Stockholm and could see Amanda play at Open Piano for Refugees at Sjöhistorike Museet. It was a beautiful show at a beautiful location, with ship songs, lovely fans, tears cried and ukuleles blessed. The perfect start to the concert day and something I would not have wanted to miss.

Catching an earlier train to Stockholm meant a rather early start in Copenhagen. Luckily I was walking distance from the train station, but I’d still counted on catching a few hours of shut eye on the train. Not the case. By now my nose was running, a cough had started and my throat hurt so much it kept me from sleeping. I drank massive amounts of tea with honey, but nothing seemed to help. 🙁 It was a nice trip nonetheless and when I finally arrived I went straight to the venue because my hostel was on the opposite end of the city. A bunch of people had already gathered on the museum floor when I arrived and I found a nice spot at the front. The room was gorgeous with the front of a ship right behind the piano, figurehead included and a sailboat in the room as well.

While we waited for Amanda anyone who wanted to play, sat down at the piano and did just that. It was lovely. Udo, the organizer said a few words and told us a little about Open Piano for refugees and that the money they were collecting would go into music lessons and instruments for refugee children. Amanda was running a little late and we were told to move closer so I ended up by the side of the piano. Nice. She finally arrived to great cheers, told us she had to change outfits before playing, so we got two more songs by other people.

She finally emerged, looking like a fairy-princess with a lovely long cape, telling us she had already entertained a few little girls in the bathroom. 😀 She spoke about her life as a living statue and the weird places she worked and had to get dressed at. Turns out she got even less sleep than I did the previous night. First thing she asked was if we had any requests, so I called out ‘In Harm’s Way’. She liked the idea, but needed someone to google the lyrics for her. She talked about writing the song after being at refugee camps in Lesvos and the pictures of Alan Kurdi dead on the beach went around the world. The hardest part about working as a volunteer she mentioned is the moment when the attention of the world fades and the crisis is still there. The performance was amazing and I cried almost from the start. It is one of Amanda’s most powerful songs and hearing it live totally did me.

Amanda told us she wanted to do a ship song, but not the one we were thinking about. I wasn’t thinking about any song at that point, but probably everyone else was. She struck up a conversation with a little boy in the crowd and later gave him her ukulele to hold which he took with great care and in great awe. She asked if anyone had a knife and I offered my tiny travel pocket knife. during the next song she was going to use it to hit the piano strings with it. Now I finally understood what she had planned to do in Copenhagen the previous night. We learned about an obscure and depressing The Cure song, called ‘Figurehead’ – I’m sure there were people in the audience who had heard that one. What we got, however was Brecht/Weill’s ‘Pirate Jenny’ – the English version this time. 🙂 “Look, a ship!” she started, which made us smile, because there was actually a ship in the room and the little boy said “That’s a pirate ship!”. Indeed!

There were more requests, some of which Amanda said she could not do on her own and she settled for ‘In my Mind’ – that song is always a great choice. 😀 She told us she’d forgotten about writing a new song until someone had reminded her at the Open Piano for Refugees show in Copenhagen. It was written on ukulele as a sort of protest song. She spoke about the fact that mass shootings no happen on a daily basis in the US and how gun laws still have not changed. We learned the sing along “Everybody knows somebody” and off we went. It worked nicely. The song offers some cold hard truth and yet it is rather upbeat. Nicely done. Someone in the crowd spoke about being a teacher and all his kinds being scared after a mass stabbing that had recently occurred. He showed them the ‘Strength through Music’ video and asked for that song. It lead to Amanda talking about the Paris show for a bit and what it had felt like to play there. She wondered what artists should go with the places the imagination goes to after mass shootings and that trying to understand what the person who did it must have felt like is part of it.

Eventually I got up and walked around to take pictures from different places. By the side there was a woman who was live painting pictures of Amanda with watercolors. It was awesome! Someone asked for ‘Leeds United’, a song I had totally forgotten about. How cool is that? 😀 Next was ‘Map of Tasmania’, also a request. It had been a while since I’ve heard that one and it was fun hearing it again! Se walked around among the audience too. 🙂 Back at the piano she told us she had not played the next song in many years, but that it was fitting for the venue and Nick Cave one of the artists she most admired. She gave us a gorgeous version of ‘The Ship Song’.

Last but not least she was back in the crowd for ‘The Ukulele Anthem’. We all had fun with that! In the end she decided there should be a ship with a figurehead holding up a ukulele. 🙂 Someone had brought a ukulele and asked her to bless it, which she did by holding it up. 😀 At the end of this glorious gig we all took a picture together. Then Amanda went and signed all the pictures the live painter had painted. What a glorious show that was!

Since the bus back into town was too packed, another woman and me opted for walking to the nearest subway station. It was a beautiful day and we had a great chat on the way. Perfect first concert of the day!

Setlist

In Harm’s Way
Die Seeräuber-Jenny (Kurt Weill cover)
In my Mind
Everybody Knows Somebody
Strength Through Music
Leeds United
Map of Tasmania
The Ship Song (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds cover)
Ukulele Anthem

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