Amanda Palmer – Bremen Theater, Copenhagen; October 11th 2019
Ever since the Bataclan concert it feels to me like I need to divide every Amanda Palmer show into “before Paris” and “after Paris”. It is not like I’ve ever seen an Amanda concert that was not amazing, but that one show shifted something in me that somehow deepened my connection to Amanda and her music in ways I did not expect. So it hasn’t felt the same since. I feared that Copenhagen, the first show after Paris, would not be able to live up to my expectations somehow, but I was wrong. It was all sorts of wonderful. 🙂
I comfortably got to Copenhagen by train straight from Hamburg. The previous night my throat had felt a little scratchy and that had turn into a sore throat by now. Not what I needed. My hostel was much closer to the venue than I had expected, i.e. right across from it. I liked it a lot until I asked for hot water to make tea and they wanted to charge me for it. Are you fucking kidding me? Thus, I ate spoons full of honey and stayed inside until it was almost showtime. The weather was shitty anyway. In the queue I had a nice chat with some people, than had to wait for my photo pass to be confirmed and found them again once I got in. We talked some more, I finally got a tea and thanks to the weird seat numbering (odd on one side, even on the other) I ended up stage left for a change with a perfect view of the piano. Nice!
Around 7:15 I think, Amanda walked in from the back, telling us that this used to be a porn theater. Yay for random information! She started with Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and for the last chorus we all sang along. ‘Are there any requests?’ she wanted to know, telling us we had to do this quickly and should only request a song if we felt we would not survive without the song being played. She explained how everything would go faster than usual, because there was a curfew. It was all rather funny, because there were some misunderstandings as to which songs people wanted to hear. “Bedtime stories? The Madonna record? Oh, The Bed Song.” Someone said they were transgender and how ‘Half Jack’ was their song and could she please play that.
The first request we got was ‘Ampersand’, a song that always makes me happy. <3 We heard that the afternoon gig had a very expensive piano and how it brought back childhood memories of breaking piano strings. She spoke about her relationship with the piano, her early taste in music and her brother who influenced her and introduced her to music that became more important. Oh course we heard the story of her corrupter, as she calls him, and how, around that time, her songwriting changed. It all lead to ‘Runs in the Family’, which had also been requested. The way she beats at the piano explains the many strings she broke as a teenager, especially because it was an old one.
At one point Amanda got up to walk around the stage while talking to us and something fell from her pocket. “My knife!” she exclaimed, but would not tell us what it was for, saying we would see. She told us about piano strings being cheaper than therapy and the real-life therapist who moved in next door and taught her all the things other adults were not teaching her. I think this was the first concert I attended where nobody cheered when she mentioned Anthony’s name. When she spoke about radical empathy she mentioned that Jesus had had the same idea and later said hat we as people have the habit of killing the people who have such ideas.
By now I’d heard the story a few times and notice subtle changes. It still amazes me, how open Amanda is and enjoy everything about it, even though or maybe because of so much being so sad. Yet there was always a silver lining after terrible times. When she was 19 many important people in her life dies and she could not cope and stopped writing for years until she started The Dresden Dolls and suddenly had people believe in her. So things were great until the next hard times hit. No wonder ‘The Ride’ is such an important song for her. Come to think of it, much of my life is quite a ride as well, if completely different from hers. This night, I laughed and cried equally much. The show is sad, but it is also very funny. In fact I had told people beforehand that I laugh a lot, considering the topics of the show.
It felt like she talked especially much that night, but it might be my imagination. I felt so much of it that night, having images on my mind at times and at other times going off on a tangent thinking about things in my life. After ‘Bigger on the Inside’ she interrupted herself, apologizing to those who were seeing her for the first time and saying that it wasn’t always that bad. She introduced abortion as “a more cheerful topic” and then explained, how nobody wants to talk about it, but how important it is, joking she was sure we’d all be up at night trying to write the perfect abortion song. ‘Oasis’ did feel really cheerful, because not only did we do a good job, being “the abortion Beatles” and singing along, but people were even clapping along.
After fours shows I see patterns and recurring themes of “us” versus “them”, as in “my community” versus “the people who don’t get me, but whose criticism is easier to handle, because they are not my people” as well as criticism coming from unexpected corners being harder to take and crisis leading to writer’s block and then crucial moments that bring the artistic voice back. There is so much more to the show though and the audience reaction is always different. People will cheer in different place, will be more or less shocked by some stories, will cry in silence or just listen intently. This night they cheered loudly and laughed a lot when she said “there an irony deficiency” in activism in America. Every audience is different, but by the end of the night I always have the feeling they get it. The people I talk to and hear talking certainly do, but of course I can not speak for everyone.
It feels refreshing to me to hear how Amanda didn’t know if she wanted children or not. Even though I’ve been clear on not wanting any children in my life for a long time, I know this feeling can change and in different circumstances I might have made a different choice and tried for children too. It makes so much sense to me that the thought never occurs until you find the right partner, and even then, that the choice is not clear or easy. I feel for her every time she tells the story of thinking everything would be clear at a certain age. Been there, felt that. 😉 even though I have never been pregnant it is all relatable to me. It helps that she makes so much of it sound funny. It gets a good laugh every time she tells us that she was being so indecisive of her pregnancy that Neil started calling it “Schroedinger’s Baby”. 😀
To my surprise we did not get to hear ‘Machete’ that night, but of course she told us Anthony’s story. He died two months before Ash was born and she mentioned that if she believed in reincarnation that would have been the perfect opportunity. After spending so much time in hospitals she chose to give birth outside of hospital among midwives. Her description of her 24 hour labor as “like tripping on acid, except you get a baby in the end” was really funny too. During the night I often found myself laughing away the tears I had cried just moments before. Nothing feels weird at an Amanda Palmer concert. It’s all good and it doesn’t feel strange either to sing “At least the baby didn’t die” along at the top of my lungs along with everyone else in the room.
After ‘A Mother’s Confession’ she called, Alex, her merch queen to the stage, because it was his birthday that day. We all sang Happy Birthday to him and there was cake too and he got hugs from Amanda and some of the crew. While he tried his cake, she told us how he is a big part of the Patreon community and asked us to be extra nice to him because he’d had a shitty week. She then announced that there would be no intermission, because otherwise she would not fit in the full show before the curfew.
This was the part of the show where Amanda talked about the restorative justice retreat she had been invited to and explained that the idea is that a community cannot heal unless prisoners and survivors get together, share their stories and public apologies as well as public forgiveness happens. There needs to be closure and understanding and that does not happen if prisoners are just put away. It sounds very powerful when she describes it. I cannot even imagine how being there must feel. We learned that is Massachusetts a life sentence without parole exists and some people get two of them. Every time I hear the story I take away something new and every time the audience reaction is different. There was a lot of laughter this time around. Also, there was loads of cheering when she talked about her Patreon, asked us to raise our hands and told the audience that we were the people who support her every month. 😀 All that lead to ‘Drowning in the Sound’ which seems to get more powerful each night. <3 I love the lights on this too – it makes the song even more dramatic.
“It is not our job as performers to make you feel comfortable,” she said, speaking about Hannah Gadsby and when she spoke about Nick Cave she said “part of our job is not to pretend for you that everything is OK”. Via the performances that influenced her and topics we can and cannot talk about she circled back to her Patreon and the post where she asked us what we would say to someone, who was going for an abortion. I remember the post and the beautiful, compassionate comments. ‘Voicemail for Jill’ followed of course.
Of course we didn’t miss ‘Let it go’ that night either and people even sang along. It fits the show well, not only because the movie Frozen gets mentioned a few times. 🙂 We clapped and cheered her back to the stage for one last story and one last song. It was ‘The Ride’, connecting everything we had heard so far. This night she mentioned that it was comedian Bill Hicks who said that life is just a ride. It was the perfect ending to a great show
Afterwards we even took two Patreon pictures. One happened on stage and because we had one patron in a wheelchair, we all joined him in the back of the auditorium for a second one, shining some light on him with our phones. Outside, after the show, Amanda came out talking o people and giving hugs. I even got a picture with her this time. 🙂 Finally I found one of the women again, who I’d talked to before the show. With her and another new acquaintance, I went out to a bar and we had a nice and quiet chat about the show and life in general, before it was time to call it a night.
Creep (Radiohead cover)
Runs in the Family
Bigger on the Inside
A Mother’s Confession
Drowning in the Sound
Voicemail for Jill
Let It Go (Idina Menzel cover)