Amanda (Fucking) Palmer unites the freaks at the Fillmore

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Amanda Palmer shows her stuff.
PHOTO BY HALEY ZAREMBA.

Theatrics! Camp! Bravado! Glitter! Body hair! Going to an Amanda Palmer concert is like taking a trip to the island of misfit toys. Standing in the crowd, I was surrounded by top hats, tutus, tuxedos, pink mohawks, steampunk creations, and many more accessories that I can’t begin to identify. 

The audience at the Fillmore last Wednesday was incredibly diverse in age, gender, and style, seemingly united only by their love for the many artistic eccentricities of Amanda Fucking Palmer, as her fans call her.

An electric performer, Palmer ruled the stage, looking like the black swan in dark, heavy makeup and a corset as she spit her venomously witty lyrics and jerked around like a marionette, swinging a megaphone, banging on her keyboard, and running instrumental drills with her band, the Grand Theft Orchestra. The setlist, dominated by her new album Theatre is Evil, crackled with energy and emotion.

The night’s dynamic itinerary offered many emotional highs and lows. In a particularly heartbreaking segment, Palmer brought up a box that had been left on the merch table for people to fill with all the bad and sad things that had happened in their bedrooms. Usually Palmer reads the box, but her husband, writer Neil Gaiman, offered to read tonight. 

The tragic and highly personal details people shared cast an incredible hush over the sold-out room. Usually, Palmer records this reading and mashes it into a new song, but she forgot on this night (she later issued an online apology and a promise to make it up to the fans with a recorded version.) 

Despite this omission, the segment was incredibly powerful. These dark secrets saw the light in a crowd of people who were really listening. Palmer does something truly incredible here, using performance art to de-stigmatize past trauma and to turn sharing into a beautiful, communal experience.

This solemn moment was balanced with the transcendent song “Bottom Feeder” in which Palmer, looking like a mermaid, jumped into the crowd wearing a jacket that trailed yards of rippling chiffon over the audience. Under the fabric, holding it up with our hands, the audience members were grinning widely at each other in a moment that perfectly captured the whimsical beauty of the song and the entire night.

 

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