Amanda Palmer – University Concert Hall, Limerick – October 27th, 2019
Amanda Palmer’s show in Limerick was a small and truly beautiful affair. Everything about this show felt right for me and it moved me a lot more than the previous night in Belfast had. The lovely venue, the small, dedicated crowd, the low stage that we almost sat on being front row, the stories shared and especially the love that radiated from everyone in the room made it a truly special evening.
It was a long, yet beautiful bus ride from Belfast with one change in Dublin. I started out in the morning and arrived in the afternoon, around 3:30. It was then I realized I would not make it to Shintaido, because the venue was at the university, on the outskirts of town, while me hotel was t the city center an hour’s walk away. I had no idea why I booked it like that but there was no way I could make it. 🙁 Thus I settled for getting some rest and then walking along the river to a beautiful sunset towards university concerts hall. First I thought all the restaurants in the area were closed, but then I realized that the cafe in the same building as the venue was open and they served the most delicious cake – perfect.
Sipping some tea I stood around, hearing limericks performed by some brave people and was in a good mood already by the time they opened the doors. As I walked in and realized there was hardly any distance between the front row and the stage, my mood got even better. Since it was nit sold out they venue had been made smaller by curtains separating the back from the front and it created a cozy atmosphere. People around me were nice and we chatted until just before show start.
When Amanda walked out, everyone cheered loudly, then grew quiet to listen. She told us it was her last show in Ireland and thus a farewell to the country, yet her first show ever in Limerick, so it came with the warning that it was going to be “like an insane first date”. 😀 She then told us about Sinéad, a fan, who was currently at a nearby hospice, close to dying, unable to make it to the show she’d bought a ticket for long ago. Thus, Amanda had visited her and played for her in the afternoon. One of the songs she had played without realizing it put the song into a new context was ‘In my Mind’ and she started the concert with this one, walking among the crowd, crying while she did. It was the most powerful version of the song I have ever heard and she even managed to make us laugh during it.
We heard how she was excited about coming to Ireland and then ran into problems, where an anti-abortion activist group she had invited was not allowed to set up in the lobby, because it was “an apolitical venue”. Thus they got creative and sat up on stage. Then the same thing happened in Dublin and more creativity was needed, whereas the venue in Belfast had no problem with anyone setting up in the lobby. She spoke a lot about Belfast, the best show of the tour in her opinion, about the people she met there and about being un-invited from the “Late, late show”, then sat down at the piano and played Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘Black Boys on Mopeds’. I cried for the second time that night.
We heard that she got her first Sinéad O’Connor tape at 14, copied the artwork and taped it on the cover to make it look more real – that made me smile so much, because I remember trying to draw copies of the artwork for the same effect. 😉 Anyway, it was the start to a changing taste in music and a time of terrible taste in men for Amanda. Around this time she met “the corrupter”, who is a key part of the story at every show. Like every time it made me think about how as teenagers we all think we know so much and know so little. Her taste in music at that time got a little push towards the gothic by her older brother and thus her songwriting too a turn as well, with her spending hours hitting her mother’s old piano. ‘Runs in the Family’ followed.
The songs being so wonderfully interwoven with the stories Amanda tells is the best part of the show for me. It’s really just on ebig story that gets told over three plus hours, underlined by the songs she plays, seamlessly connecting one topic with the next and always coming full circle in the end. It is such a well thought-out show and I love seeing small changes from night to night, hearing the story evolve. <3
With Anthony moving in next door, she met a real life therapist for the first time and learned a lot from him, especially coming from a family that believed in suffering quietly rather than therapy. One of the great things about him was that he never told her what to do, like all the other adults in her life did. That was perfect for someone who doesn’t like being told what to do. Not even when she begged him to tell her what to do he didn’t and would let her figure out things for herself. When she was 19 many important people in her life died and she felt she should be able to channel all that into song, goth that he was, yet she wasn’t equipped to do so. I realized that I know that feeling of having a writer’s block when life is just too overwhelming. Wow! Amanda’s story continued into forming a band, crowdfunding and the Boston bombing. Even though it is so sad and dark, there are always reasons to laugh and it always feels organic, like it is the thing we should be doing. This is her way of making light. Teras are never far either and I still feel shocked every time she talks about daring to emphasize with the Boston bomber and the reactions she got that weren’t criticism, but threats of death and violence. When even the music press told her she had fucked up I could feel how lonely that must have been. When the people you consider part of your community suddenly don’t have your back any more, what’s left? How do you not give up? She channeled all of this into ‘Bigger on the inside’. There were tears on her face as well as mine as I sang along quietly.
During the song her mic kept dropping and she joked that the mic stand was just too said – we all laughed again. Right after she took us back to the basement from the start of the show, where she was still tied to a table and freezing. Luckily the birthday boy decided to untie her. She let on that she dodged that bullet, but not every one after. At this point she went off script for a bit, apologizing for those in the room who had never seen her live before for one hell of an intense first date and gave us permission to leave or just shout out “Amanda, I’m too sad”. She also let us know there would be a new Dresden Dolls record and joked she’d all it “Not everyone’s cup of tea”.
Next we landed on the topic of abortion and Amanda mentioned what a huge cheer that announcement had gotten in Belfast the previous night. People in Limerick cheered too. She told us that her first abortion had not been all that dramatic and it was clear for everyone involved that she’d have one. He mother and her boyfriend supported her. When she mentioned that they’d been together since he untied her in the basement, the crowd responded “awwwww”. When she played us ‘Oasis’ I jumped up and went to the bathroom, realizing I would not make it until the break. This was the first time I had ever taken a break during on of her shows and made it back just as the song was over.
She said that she really hadn’t thought people might have a problem with the song. The audience laughed when she said how British journalists got it, but the ones in the US didn’t. Changing the long a little bit to the minor scale might have worked for them, but would not have been true to how she felt about it or how her life was like at 17. We got to the point of the story where it was time for ‘Part of your world’. Again she asked us to imagine three different voices: the artist, the potential mother and the fetus. As soon as she started playing everyone cracked up laughing and she had to laugh with us. For extra credit we should imagine an angry vagina – that lead to even more laughter. I never knew Disney movie songs could be so much fun! Everyone played along too, yelling out “feet” and “street” at the appropriate points in the song. Awesome. 😀
When she was younger, Amanda had been pretty sure she didn’t want children, but later something shifted and she wanted a baby. Seven month pregnant, with her belly being gigantic (her words), she was sitting at Anthony’s deathbed, being there as he lost his fight to cancer. She spoke about feeling honored to be there and hold him in his final moments. If she believed in reincarnation, the opportunity would have been perfect. She spoke more about Anthony and his obsession with weapons and self defense. He never got a song until she wrote one for his memorial service. A powerful version of ‘Machete’ followed. That song always brings tears to my eyes.
At this point of the show she invited Gaby on stage, the photojournalist who is accompanying the tour. Amanda told us how they visited Sinéad before the show and stayed with her for an hour, plying music. She had promised her to make everyone shout her name and asked which way the hospital was. People were pointing in different directions and it took a moment to sort it out. She wanted us all to sing for Sinéad’s birthday on Tuesday so we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ while Gaby was filming, cheered and called out “We love you Sinéad!” at the tops of our lungs on the count of three. Sinéad’s sister Niamh rushed to the stage to hug Amanda and she held her for a while. There were a lot of tear shed in the room and someone called out she was too sad so we got the opening chords of ‘Coin-operated Boy’. It helped.
Ash was born and Amanda refused to have any help for the first four months. We heard about her visit to Jason Webley where they decided to write as many songs as possible while Ash was sleeping and she played ‘A Mother’s Confession’ for us. Everyone stood up and sang loudly “At least the baby didn’t die” in the end. This was probably one of the loudest audiences I hear doing that. Well done, considering some other halls were much bigger. 🙂 It was time for intermission, during which she recommended drinking and she showed us the photo book before she sent us of.
After the break Amanda greeted us with ‘Coin-operated Boy’, which led to happy cheers. I love the satire of the song and the faces she makes when she is playing it. It is always fun and a good comic relief in the otherwise heavy show. Despite her best efforts to steer Ash away from ‘Frozen’ (the movie all kids seemed to be crazy about at that time) he developed free will and wanted to see it. It was when she realized that sometimes “whatever works” is a good call when you are a parent. 😉 We then hear about the restorative justice retreat she went to went to as well as her Patreon and using the patrons to get an idea for a song, then making a stupid joke the morning she had booked the studio and getting angry at the backlash. She channeled all that energy into writing and out came ‘Drowning in the Sound’. It was perfect and again I was in tears.
Everything about this show felt right to me. I was vulnerable and safe at the same time, enjoying every minute, every song and feeling connected to everyone around me. I loved listening to Amanda tell her stories and sing her songs – it all made sense. She spoke about calling her producer when she felt the songs she had written might be an album and he listened, without being judgmental and confirmed that it was and she should release it. Thus ‘There will be no Intermission’ came together with some of the saddest songs she has ever written and she finally found her voice to talk about abortion. I don’t know many songs about the topic, but I’d said ‘Voicemail for Jill’ has everything that is needed. The right tone, touching all the emotions connected to the issue and leaving the listener with the feeling that there is someone who understands. “You don’t need a courtroom inside of your heard where you’r acting as judge and accused and defendant and witness.” Exactly. Again I cried and many others did too. It was alright.
So many stories are hard to hear and yet I believe it is important that they get told. We should speak about abortions and miscarriages and death more often, to learn from these experiences, to know that we are not alone in our fears and our grief, to hear that we can live through such things and come out stronger, that we are equipped to deal with death and with anything our bodies an do. This knowledge is very powerful. It may be second hand for me regarding most of the topics Amanda speaks about, but that makes it only more important. 🙂 When she had finished talking about her miscarriage, someone called out “Amanda, I am too sad”. “I won’t do it,” she replied “it will all make sense in a moment!” And it did when she launched into ‘Let it go’. It instantly made me smile again. As she hammered the piano with all her might, I did my best to sing along and still had tears running down my face. Happy ones this time – this was just so good!
Amanda left and we kept on clapping until she got back. She told us one last story about compassion and also spoke about asking her patrons what they were scared of at the moment and she discovered patterns in what they answered. All of that turned into ‘The Ride’, the last song she played for us. When it first came out, I didn’t care for it all that much, but it has grown on me over the course of these shows and I thoroughly enjoyed it that night. It was wonderful overall and I could not stop smiling in the end.
Walking out I chatted with the woman who had been sitting next to me and she helped me call a taxi. I just had the time to say goodbye to Amanda before I needed to leave. She remembered that I’m from Germany and we spoke in German for a little bit. I told her I’d be in London on the 6th and 14th and she promised the 14th was going to be the best. I believe her. We hugged goodbye, it made e feel all warm and fuzzy inside. may taxi was waiting and as we drove towards my hotel, ‘Let it go’ was playing on the radio – the perfect ending to a perfect night.
In my Mind
Black Boys on Mopeds (Sinéad O’Connor cover)
Runs in the Family
Bigger on the inside
Part of your World (Jodi Benson cover)
A Mother’s Confession
Drowning in the Sound
Voicemail for Jill
Let it go (Idina Menzel cover)