Monday, April 15, 2013

Amanda Palmer Rocks Into Town On A Ukelele

Opening acts.
In case you missed it, Wesleyan University alum Amanda Palmer was back in town this weekend, playing a free show on campus as part of the Humanity Festival.

Palmer has become almost as famous for crowdsourcing her tour musicians, giving TED talks, conquering social media and marrying writer Neil Gaiman as for her wildly original songwriting and performances.

I don't know what to call Palmer's music.  Her Wikipedia page lists "punk cabaret" as a genre, and that seemed close enough when I saw her most recent tour in Boston, backed by The Grand Theft Orchestra.  For this show she was supported only by a stool which propped up the leg upon which she braced an aggressively strummed ukelele.

Palmer stopped her first song, "In My Mind", a few times, to admire the children running around on the grass (and up on stage with her), to fix the monitor mix, to admit she was hungover, and to borrow a pair of "lovely soft fuzzy fingerless gloves" from a member of the audience.  She played some requests including "Oasis", and did several covers, including Billy Bragg's "1649" and an NWA song to the chords of her own "The Truth".  Made me wonder if Dr. Dre has ever sampled a ukelele.

Leading sing-along version of "Creep".
Palmer got the crowd off the damp, chilly Foss Hill and down into a friendly warm moshpit for The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go", backed by an impromptu student band.  She went solo again for her own "Ukelele Anthem", then abandoned the stage to lead the crowd back up the slope for a sing-along version of Radiohead's "Creep".

I don't think it was punk cabaret.  I won't try to classify it.  But it was the kind of direct connection with an audience that's truly rare.  Art without artifice. You may not know it, but you really wish you were there.

"Ukelele Anthem"


Anonymous said...

I do wish I had been there - sounds like I missed a fantastic show. Thank you for reporting on this! I watched her TED talk online about asking for help and it was great. The fourth picture down in this article is wonderful!!

Bill Flood said...

CORRECTION: The Billy Bragg song I labeled "1649" is actually titled "The World Turned Upside Down".

Also, Wesleying had a lengthy write up: