Having been a fan of Amanda Fucking Palmer’s music and persona since the days of the Dresden Dolls, I’d assumed the opening acts on her latest tour would be nothing if not eclectic.
I arrived at the Commodore last Saturday in time to catch The Simple Pleasure, of which I am now proud to call myself a fan. The cherubim-faced disco-sexpot that is Chad Raines is a natural frontman on stage, carelessly swinging his axe around and dripping of bravado and good-time-ness, as he and his drum-less band pump out joyously sexy, fuzzy disco pop. Near the end of their set, Baby Bowie Raines called in the pink flamingos that had migrated into the crowd back to the stage; they faithfully returned, in no hurry, bopping along with the supportive humans below.
Amanda Palmer made an appearance after The Simple Pleasure took its leave and asked everyone to pass their fruit toward the front. Yup, you read right. We were mid-fruit carving contest. All participants were more than happy to oblige as a pear, a lime wedge (bonus points for incorporating the venue!), an overwhelming amount of unoriginal apples and, oh oui – a courgette (named Nemo, no less) – migrated forward. Nemo ended up taking the fruit crown, and her/his/its date and creator Anthony/Antoine/Anton/Aujrwsomethingorother earned himself some free Amanda Palmer merchandise.
Ronald Reagan, also known under the incredibly catchy moniker “Boston’s Premier ‘80s Pop Saxophone Duo” performed riveting, triple-cheese filled renditions of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. This clip from their recent stop in Denver will give you an idea of what you missed (though we sang much better, Vancouver). The funny-looking twosome composed of Alec Spiegelman (who in all likelihood speaks some form of Elvish) and Kelly Roberge (who, in turn, must speak Klingon) only played two songs but succeeded in further winding up the audience.
At a bit past 10:30 p.m, the moment finally came for our favourite lady, the one and only Amanda Palmer, to stroll on stage and properly take over. Her performance of the excellent “The Killing Type” underlined the indisputable modern pop sensibility that dwells inside of her, which is only heightened by her tongue-in-(your)-cheek and sharp-toothed delivery. She played a handful of songs, such as “Astronaut”, before she indulged her drama school tendencies and pulled up fans, some of them topless, and charged them each with finding a song by Madonna, Bloc Party, Patrick Wolf and Garbage, as well as a Russell Brand clip; all of these acts were playing somewhere in Vancouver this night. While the mash-up itself was quite horrid, the playfulness with which it came together, not to mention the willingness of Palmer’s fans to become part of the art was both impressive and entertaining. Oh, and the boobs – always a nice touch.
Amanda strayed from her solo stuff to the ecstasy of many, playing the funny, Lolita-esque “Missed Me” and the frantic, estrogen-supercharged “Girl Anachronism”, both from The Dresden Dolls’ 2003 eponymous full-length. I’m perfectly satisfied being a regular white dude, but no one makes me wish I was a punk-rock chick like Amanda Palmer does. “Trout Heart Replica” was another dramatic highlight, thanks to a lovely performance by the Grand Theft Orchestra made up of Vancouver area musicians. “Can I knock you unconscious as long as I promise I’ll love you and I’ll make you laugh?” Beautiful stuff.
The night wasn’t all laughs and craziness. At one point, Palmer collected the notes fans had inserted in the box at the merch table that instructed to submit a note describing something sad/bad that had happened in your bedroom. Fully engaged, the crowd gladly provided the respect and silence required of such a charged moment.
I cried myself to sleep for a year with my friends right outside the door.
I came close to killing myself.
I didn’t get up until they took me to the psych ward.
My lover told me he’d like to kiss my wrinkly skin when we grew old together… then left me.
If Palmer knows how to do one thing, it’s to involve her loyal fans, which she did to the nth degree on Saturday. At one point, photos submitted in advance by Vancouver fans were used as the backdrop images during one of her songs.
A cover of “Careless Whisper” by Wham! helped break the heart-wrenching tension following the bedroom-box reading, and the whole gang, including Ronald Reagan and The Simple Pleasure, flooded the stage to join Amanda, now sporting an imposing military cap, in a raucous version of “Leeds United” to finish off the night.
I’ve seen many a show at the Commodore and I’ve rarely seen as enthusiastic and happy a crowd as last Saturday. A big thank you to Amanda and her band of merry, fairy pranksters.