By Amy Singer
Amanda Palmer returned to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto last night for the second show of what will be 18 months on the road. She’s already tired. And cold. It’s Canada, after all.
She borrowed a filmy black sequined scarf from an audience member, which only lasted one song, wrapped softly around her neck. Her animated and enthusiastic performance of fan-favorite “Runs in the Family” made the additional layer quickly unnecessary.
Amanda Palmer has zero artifice. She is an open emotional door. This show, “There Will Be No Intermission”, took her openness even further. Time for my full disclosure disclaimer: I’m a fan. I’ve seen her perform in three countries over the last 10 years, and I’ve never not enjoyed an Amanda Palmer show. Last night, I watched her carefully open her chest and share some of the most intimate details anyone with a womb could ever experience with 300 of their closest friends. The show (and accompanying album) is biographically, brutally honest, touching, and, in her own words, “relentlessly sad”. Palmer had that covered, though. She encouraged the audience to yell, “Amanda, I’m too sad,” when it got too much for them, and she would play the opening uber-cheerful riff to “Coin-Operated Boy” to lighten the atmosphere. They yelled it as needed and it worked.
The show opens with an announcement from a British-accented voice, which lays out the usual request to silence cellphones. As the audience realizes it’s actually Neil Gaiman (reknowned author and Palmer’s husband since 2011) speaking, he gently launches in to a list of the life events we are about to experience in the show.
Most of the songs Palmer played are from her just-released album, “There Will Be No Intermission”. The songs were written over the last seven years, her work funded by the more than 15,000 Patrons who support her directly through her Patreon (http://patreon.com/amandapalmer). She laid them out chronologically, sharing intensely personal stories between each song. Stories of the deaths of loved ones, her struggle with the decision to become a mother, and the abortions and miscarriage that happened on the way there. Palmer fan or not, the stories were heartfelt and intentionally, brutally open on subjects that rarely are discussed in such a public forum. It was impossible not to be moved.
Palmer’s voice was rich and rested, as she accompanied herself on her grand piano or ukulele. She slowed down her usual tempo on “The Thing About Things”, making intense eye contact with the audience as she clearly delivered the lyrics.
And I lay in bed with my phone in my hand
Thinking “What can I fix with which app”
Cos the thing about things is that they can start meaning things
Nobody actually said
And if you’re not allowed to love people alive
Then you learn how to love people dead
Palmer’s lyrics are intelligent, pointed and often poignant without being sappy. She’s a proud practitioner of radical empathy, even when it goes beyond what the left wing considers appropriate. She doesn’t care. Or rather, she cares intensely about people (even the bad ones) and too bad if you’re not okay with that.
The audience was fine with that; in fact, that’s why they were there. Palmer is clear about her role in the world: “As an artist,” she said, “my job is to take the dark and make light.”
It’s a shame the imprinted hankies she’d ordered for the merch table didn’t make it in time for the Toronto show. The audience could have used them. Never mind. They got showered with three hours of intense and beautiful truth.
About Queen Elizabeth Theatre