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"Amanda Palmer Saved My Life!" by DC-in-Detroit

DC is a longtime contributor to the MCB.
She can be reached at [at]

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra
13 November 2012
St Andrew's Hall, Detroit
Amanda Palmer hits that sweet spot wherein she's not exactly a household name, but the people who know her are completely mental for her music. This means that as much as I love her music (and I do), her live shows are an absolute experience. If AP or the Dresden Dolls have even one song that you've ever enjoyed, GO to one of her shows. I insist. I'll drive.

I've been to plenty of shows where the performers look like they'd rather be anywhere else. Or maybe they just don't have any idea where they actually are. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra knew exactly where they were, exactly who they were with, and made it plain this was exactly where they wanted to be. When the show started at 8 on the dot, Amanda came on stage in a silvery kimono to introduce the first act of the evening, in a croaking voice. "I'm sick," she told us. "Other people would just cancel a show, but I'm the asshole that does it anyway."

Later in the show, after hopping around and playing every instrument on stage, she told us, "It's like when you're supposed to meet a friend for coffee, but you feel like shit, and… you go anyway, because you know your friend is going to love on you and take care of you."

The crowd was definitely full of friends who wanted to love on AFP. At least 3 or 4 different people brought her handmade gifts, which she accepted between songs. And one little darling right up front who tearfully told her, "You saved my life!"

Yes, sometimes it's that kind of music, too. Palmer is very theatrical, very lyrical -- no vapid vocal tricks here -- and is going to resonate especially loudly with a certain kind of audience (hi theater geeks!). Lots of hair flowers to be seen in the crowd, a handful of corsets, and more stripes than on a Maricopa County chain gang.

As for the music, it's hard to know where to begin. The two "openers" were actually different arrangements of the musicians from the Grand Theft Orchestra, plus local artists for certain pieces, doing their own music. Right there, you know you've got an extremely talented bunch of people. And what they played was a lot of fun. But when the Amanda Palmer experience itself begins, it's something else entirely.

She has a power of presence that is undeniable, and irresistible. She's all… eyes and mouth, and completely consumed by the music. "I'm not a singer-singer," she said. "I'm not exactly Celine Dion." It wouldn't work if she were. I can't imagine Celine Dion smashing on the piano and hollering with half her clothes off. ("Sometimes you just need permission to take your clothes off." I'm surprised everyone in the place didn't get half-naked right at that moment. Stoopid decency laws.) Then the songs themselves just pull you into the story and keep you there, until you might find yourself hollering along as well.

I could go on about how intimate ("Map of Tasmania" done sans microphone was a highlight), how moving, how FUN the show was, but I'm going to hand it over to Kevin Soney to give you a better feel. After the encore -- "Want It Back" played unplugged in mostly darkness from the right-side St Andrew's catwalk, something I don't think I'd ever seen happen before -- when the crowd was clearing out, I saw Kevin and his gear, looking all bright-eyed and charged up. "Oh good, you're still here!" I said to him. "Please tell me you shot through the whole show…"

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra's newest album "Theatre is Evil" is available on a Pay What You Want basis here:
"if you’re broke – take it. if you love it, come back and kick in later when you have the money.
if you’re rich, think about who you might be karmically covering if you really love this record."