While most of the Triangle’s residents were glued to their televisions, watching the final game of March Madness on Monday, April 6th, we found ourselves sitting at A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater, awaiting the start of a performance by an artist whose work neither of us knew. We hadn’t a clue what to expect from the Broadway Series South presentation of An Evening with Amanda F****ng Palmer.
Inside the theater, we saw a grand piano and a microphone center stage with a few flowers strewn in front of it. Stage-left was another mike on a stand. House lights dimmed. Enter barefooted (and very pregnant) Amanda Palmer to hearty cheering and applause. It was the start of what would turn out to be one of the most memorable, energizing evenings of soulful music/performance art/spoken word/theater that we think we’ve ever had. For nearly two hours, we were thoroughly entertained by Palmer’s brash mix of piano music, powerful alto vocals, and ukulele music. Yes, ukulele.
If you haven’t heard of “Amanda F****ng Palmer,” as she is called, then a quick search on the web will reveal that she is a lightning rod of controversy. Formerly a member of the Dresden Dolls, a punk band, Palmer writes raw songs on topics most won’t. Certainly, her music is not radio-ready, as they say. Also, her every word in interviews is scrutinized, analyzed, and then criticized.
It appears that what the critics hate is that Palmer is a powerful, brash woman unashamed to speak her mind, to speak of the unspeakable, to express herself provocatively, to expose her troubles to her fans. She makes people uncomfortable. She makes people think.
Amanda Palmer is a powerhouse, a powder keg, an amazing entertainer. The crowd, a mix of old and young, many dressed in punk clothes and purple hair, adored her. We were impressed by the variety of people who turned out. Ages varied from early teens to 70 or so. There were lots of “regular-looking folks,” along with guys wearing kilts, people with their faces painted white, men with gray ponytails, and girls in pill-box hats and tattoos. This may not be our usual crowd, but we adored her too.
Palmer tells stories. After two songs, she began her first chat with the audience. Coming downstage, she asked for houselights — very appropriate for a chit-chat. We learned a little about her, the music, and the tour.
In a later audience conversation, she produced a copy of her new book, The Art of Asking (click here to view her TED2013 talk about the book), and asked a volunteer to pick a section for her to read to us. Plunking herself onto the floor, she read to the audience and invited us on a journey into her life.
She took requests. When a fan yelled for “Freebird,” she covered “Freebird.” On the ukulele. With new lyrics. With tongue firmly planted in cheek. At one point, when a fan requested one of her oldies, she said, “Oh, hell. I will have to Google the lyrics. She then pulled out her phone and did so. And played it brilliantly.
Many songs started with a gentle stoke of the piano, followed by an abrupt switch into a forceful melody, punctuated here and there with a percussive stomp of her foot. Then came her powerful vocals.
Palmer uses her voice to a variety of effects — expressing raw emotions as well as well-thought-out opinions — the quality of her voice changing to accentuate the thoughts and feelings in the lyrics. Halfway into the first song, we felt as though we had been invited into her mind, her heart, her soul.
The lyrics often seem to be a “stream-of-consciousness” type of “free verse” poetry. She takes us on more that one journey in a single song, often surprising us with the various destinations we reach.
The evening was a home run on many levels. The music was wonderful. The lyrics were thought-provoking and moving. We felt as though we had made a new friend, and we had spent two hours communing with her and a room full of other friends of hers.
If possible, spend An Evening with F****ng Amanda Palmer. Attend the concert with one of your best friends and leave the better for it. It’s not a concert. It’s an experience. Go.
SECOND OPINION: April 2nd Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Isaac Weeks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/music-news-reviews/article17101496.html; and April 1st Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Maura Johnston: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/amanda-palmer/Event?oid=4354369.
AN EVENING WITH F****NG AMANDA PALMER (Broadway Series South, April 6 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh, NC).
SHOW: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/amada-palmer-6003 and https://www.facebook.com/events/323632634501827/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://amandapalmer.net/videos/.
PRESENTER: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/broadway-series-south, https://www.facebook.com/broadwayseriessouthraleigh, and https://twitter.com/BroadwaySouth.
Amanda MacKinnon Gaiman Palmer, a.k.a. Amanda F****ng Palmer (rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker): http://amandapalmer.net/ (official website), http://www.ted.com/speakers/amanda_palmer (TED page), https://www.facebook.com/amandapalmer (Facebook Page), https://twitter.com/amandapalmer (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_Palmer (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.