Amanda Palmer & Edward Ka-Spel – Heaven, London; June 13th 2017
Intense! That’s the first word coming to my mind when I’m thinking of last night’s Amanda Palmer / Edward Ka-Spell performance in London. I laughed and I cried, I was enthralled and completely in awe, I forgot that I’d barely slept and the two plus hour show felt no longer than the blink of an eye. Finally I understand what it is all about. It was totally worth the trip to London and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I discovered Amanda Palmer the long way around. I’d heard about her, but never checked her out until my friend K. recommended her Ted talk. I liked that, I though she was cool, I read her book “The Art of asking”, loved that, but still didn’t check out her music until last summer when I watched the Dresden Dolls show being webcast from Coney Island. It drew me in, I enjoyed it, I wanted to know more. It was then I decided to see her live. What followed was a lot more webcasts I saw, a few missed opportunities because I was touring elsewhere, finally joining her Patreon and the decision that it had to be this tour. Originally I had planned Antwerp and Amsterdam, but life happened, another tour became more important and London was the only option left. Thus, I decided it was now or never and I have no regrets. 🙂
The previous night had been long, involved being out with friends and heavy drinking, so I found myself at Warsaw airport on two hours of sleep, knowing my only chance to catch some more shut eye before the night’s concert would be on the plane. I did, but when I finally arrived at my hostel and entered the dorm the first words I heard were “You look exhausted!” and I felt it too. Got food, showered, tried to cover up the dark circles below my eyes and went to the venue. Got there just after six. Perfect timing as within five minutes after my arrival the line grew from around 20 people to at least 100. Had a nice chat with the people in line around me, a British woman, an American one, one from Germany and a guy from Poland who was living in London. People told me it would be a great show. I totally believed it. Also, I spotted playing cards and card symbols everywhere. 😀 Got in, scored a spot at the front of to the side by the stairs and was very happy nobody had told me I could not bring my DSLR. The venue was cool and as show start drew nearer I was getting excited.
It was going to be interesting to not recognize the songs right away or be able to sing along. With only a vague idea of what to expect, I hoped it would work for me even in my less than perfect state. It did! I was spellbound from the start. The only thing that reminded me of being tired was the fact that my attention span was really short and I could barely remember anything a moment after it had happened. It did not matter, because I felt alive and caught up in the moment. The music and the stories captured my full attention, took me on a journey that left me with my mouth hanging open from the minute they first walked on stage to the final bow.
We all knew it wasn’t going to be long, when we saw photographers gather in front of the stage and the cameramen were getting ready to webcast the show. When the lights went down, the crowd went wild and the show started with Patrick Q Wright on violin, just before Amanda and Edward walked out and took their places behind the keyboard and laptop respectively. Amanda started playing and Edward took the lead for ‘The Unlikely Event’. It was as dark as it was amazing and set the mood for the rest of the night. They continued straight into ‘Pulp Fiction’ with Amanda taking the lead, walking to the front of the stage, gesturing towards us with so many emotions reflecting on her face, at times screaming the lyrics. I looked up, transfixed and felt the smile spread on my face. She totally had me from the very first moment. For the rest of the night I found it difficult to take my eyes off of whoever was at the front of the stage.
Amanda introduced ‘Shahla’s Missing Page’ by telling us about a girl from Afghanistan she had heard in an interview. She wanted to be an athlete and had to cross dress to do it and she managed. When she grew up in a tiny village her father had given her a vial of poison that she carried with her to use in case of emergency. Not on someone else, mind you, but to poison herself. The impressions from the interview turned into the song, wonderfully performed by Edward. I must admit that I have not listened to the album much and that it didn’t speak tome at all, but then and there, the songs came to life for me. 🙂
A couple of songs into the show, Amanda invited André on stage who had played with them in Paris and first showed off some strange yet awesome sound gloves and then played the musical saw. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a musical saw incorporated into a song before, only as a singular instrument. It was pretty amazing. We would see him again later that night. I loved how Edward and Amanda trade songs, I loved the stories they told, I loved the fact that both of them were barefoot and I especially loved how much they were into the songs. There were so mny emotions showing on Amanda’s face, I could not help but feel them and the songs were so powerful they gave me goosebumps.
For ‘The Clock at the back of the Cage’ she told us about the baby elephant syndrome, that occurs when you keep elephants chained as baby they get so used to it that eventually you don’t need to keep them on a chain because they believe it is there and how this did not apply to human relationships at all or did it? She also told us she wrote it for Neil and that he was in the audience that nights which lead to shouts of “We love you Neil” from the crowd. The song was originally recorded at Immogen Heap’s studio using a glockenspiel and now she had said Glockenspiel on stage, using that to play instead of the keyboard. She gave the song to Edward to sing, because she thought it sounded better with his British accent. It was creepy and amazing at the same time. 😀
They played songs from their ‘I can spin a Rainbow’ album, songs of Edward’s Band The Legendary Pink Dots, Amanda’s songs and songs of her band The Dresden Dolls, all in a nice mixture. I did not recognize each song, but loved them all and was surprised about how deeply they moved me. Listening and watching them brought me so much joy. It was even better than I had hoped for. <3
During one of the songs Amanda stepped of the stage to my left and walked right out into the audience, holding bells in both hands, high above her head and jingling them. I could not take my eyes off her and must have had a really stupid grin on my face when she walked past me. Somehow that moment made me feel that she was and that the concert was real, not just a figment of my imagination. It is difficult to explain, but everything came together then, even for my overtired brain and made me enjoy the performance even more.
Patrick stayed in the background most of the time with his violin, but sometimes wandered over to either Edward or Amanda to play next to him. Edward was often at the front of the stage, singing to us and Amanda did the same when she did not need to play keyboards. They are both good storytellers, drawing me in every time they set the mood for a new song. One particularly creepy story started out with Amanda talking about taxis versus Uber, old tradition versus shiny and new and potentially dangerous. It was about her friend Melissa, who was going home from a party in LA when she realized the Uber was taking her way from her house and didn’t know what to do, sending messages about it. The last message was “We’re coming up on a stoplight. I’m gonna jump out.” Then nothing for five minutes, then a picture of the side of a highway and the text “Melissa is fine”. “Who is this?” Nothing for five minutes, then a picture of a shoe on the side of the highway and the text “Melissa is not fine. Can you come pick us up?” With this, Amanda launched into song. She never finished the story and I wanted to shout “What happened to Melissa?” Only the next day she revealed on Twitter thet the first part really happened and the end was written bei Neil. Melissa is fine. Phew! Creepy, but effective. 😀
‘Machete’ started with a long story about her best friend Anthony who was spiritual and peace loving, but also collected knives and told her he would leave them to her when he died. She talked a lot more about what he meant to her and about his struggle with cancer. All her raw emotions found their way into the song. It was raw and at the same time so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. So the first time I saw her perform she managed to make me cry. She and Edward also managed to make me laugh several times even though I cannot remember the context of that. It was the perfect mix of emotions, just what I needed.
The whole night was magical and before it started the people next to me and me had wondered who the special guest she had announced on Twitter might be. We found out at the start of the encores that it was James Rhodes, a pianist and writer she had met at Hay Festival and invited to the stage now. He told us the classical story of Orpheus and Euridike, then playing a piano piece about them which was from the opera by the same tittle. It was pretty damn awesome. He’s agreat player. Meanwhile Amanda was sitting side stage with a glass of wine watching. They hugged, James left and we got a few more songs.
The grand finale was ‘Half Jack’ one of the few songs I knew beforehand. It was the perfect end to one hell of a show. I loved it. For this they were joined by André on the musical saw again. I could not get enough of watching them and felt really sad when the show was over. I had enjoyed it so much, I did not want it to stop. They all hugged each other in the end and bowed for us before walking off with a wave. WOW. Mind? Blown!
Suddenly I was dead tired and all I wanted to do was sleep so I didn’t even bother to find out if Amanda came out after the show or not. In passing I heard she was not going to, but did not verify. The night had already been perfect and I really could use some sleep. I am 100% sure this was not the last time I have seen her live, so there will be other chances of meeting her. Thank you Amanda! Thank you Edward! Thank you Patrick! And thank you James! I loved it!
1. Intro (Patrick Q. Wright) / The Unlikely Event (Legendary Pink Dots)
2. Pulp Fiction
3. Shalah’s Missing Page
4. The Shock of Kontakt
5. The Clock at the Back of the Cage
6. Golden Dawn (Legendary Pink Dots)
7. Jack of Hands
8. 15 Flies In The Marmalade (Legendary Pink Dots)
9. Beyond The Beach
10. Machete (AFP)
11. Rainbow’s End
12. Melody from Orfeo performed by special guest James Rhodes
13. The Lovers Part 2 (Legendary Pink Dots)
14. The Lovers Part 1 (Legendary Pink Dots)
15. Half Jack