Into the Pit: 088: Amanda Palmer – Live at The Underworld – 25-April 2010

The queue to get in was big, they opened the doors late, and as we were a bit of a way down the queue, we missed most of the first act Bitter Ruin, who were a theatrical male-female duo who were both vocalists, with he also playing acoustic guitar, and she danced a bit too. The couple of songs I heard were certainly different, and I may just have to make a point of catching them on their own sometime.

My girlfriend liked Robots In Disguise a lot more than I did, I think. Billed as an all-girl electropunk band, in acoustic form they clearly lost something in translation, and either way their slightly twee tunes and arch, knowing humour just didn’t connect with me. And, not to mention, they didn’t really feel to fit in with the “vibe” of the afternoon show to me, but a lot of the crowd loved them, so I must have been out of step with the majority…

Jason Webley was marvellous last time around in support of AFP, and he proved so once again here. A one-man Gogol Bordello, or something close, he has a crazy manic energy about him that means it’s not surprising in the slightest to find him making more noise by himself than others would do with at least three in the band. It’s slightly shambolic at points, and he constantly punctuates his songs with banter, but frankly it’s part of the fun. And while he has songs as gleeful and brilliant as Dance While The Sky Crashes Down, I’m sure he’s perfectly fine to keep going just as he is. It was only a shame that his set was only short, before Amanda Palmer joined him onstage to get on with the main part of the set.

And with this being a “secret”, short-notice show, it was perhaps obvious from the start that this wasn’t going to be your usual AFP show, and with no keyboard onstage that was quickly made all the more obvious. So, it was AFP and a ukelele, with able vocal and musical accompaniment for much of the time from Jason Webley. In some respects, though, this was AFP as she always is with the crowd – chatty, relaxed and funny, seemingly just as comfortable talking about all kinds of subjects with the several-hundred-strong crowd as she might be in her front room with a few friends. And right from the off she couldn’t get the information out fast enough – confirming that it’s likely, apparently, for an EP of ukelele-based covers of Radiohead songs to come in the summer. So we were treated to a play of Fake Plastic Trees that was every bit as wracked with emotion as the original. Who’d have thought this would work?

Things got wierder from there. The set was a mix of newer songs, brand-new songs, covers and a few Evelyn Evelyn tracks, the latter of which I had somehow missed entirely before. They went from the sublime (You Only Want Me ‘Cause You Want My Sister) to the gloriously ridiculous (Chicken Man and more than anything the huge, chaotic singalong of Elephant Elephant), and reminded me that I really ought to go and pick up the album sometime.

Amanda Palmer Setlist:
Fake Plastic Trees
GaGa Palmer Madonna
Chicken Man
You Only Want Me ‘Cause You Want My Sister
Fuck Tha Police
Do You Swear To Tell The Truth The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth So Help Your Black Ass
Electric Blanket
Anarchy In The UK
Elephant Elephant
Billie Jean


Of the new stuff, Electric Blanket was a throwaway bit of humour, while post-Roadrunner-leaving release celebration (*deep breath*) Do You Swear To Tell The Truth The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth So Help Your Black Ass came alive in the live arena in a way that it simply didn’t when I heard the studio version, and I’ve had the damned thing stuck in my head since we left the gig. So a good song, then. Also brilliantly entertaining – and a pretty good treatise on modern pop music – was the much trailed GaGa Palmer Madonna. From the title, I’m sure you can guess the rest. But with this new stuff, there is precious little hint of where AFP goes next after this summer. Do we get more Dresden Dolls, another solo album, something else entirely? I get the impression that at the moment she’s enjoying her musical and business freedom while she can.

Also worth mentioning were the wildly diverse covers that peppered the set. Like an apparently sudden and spontaneous take on Fuck Tha Police that was great fun, and an equally disposable take on Anarchy In The UK, while Billie Jean appeared to be covered just because she could.

And that was it, so we thought, but the one encore song was the one “old” song aired all night – an elegant acoustic take on one of the Dresden Dolls finest moments – the second album closer Sing, which worked better than I thought it ever could do in an acoustic form, and aided hugely by the audience harmonising. And for an afternoon gig, this was an impressive showing, but then AFP/DD fans have proven themselves time and again to be a dedicated bunch. Quite what I’ll get next time I see AFP live, god only knows, but I’m pretty certain that it will be hugely entertaining, and great fun, as this and previous times all have been.

Leave a Reply