I’ve recently started volunteering at Botanique a few nights each month. It only takes a couple of hours out of my evening and, more importantly, it gives me free access to the evening concerts. When more than one concert is taking place on the same evening, I like to go around and spend half an hour or so listening to each artist. So, that was the plan on Saturday evening too.
Unfortunately – or maybe I should say fortunately – I decided to start my tour with Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. You’ve probably guessed by now, I was mesmerised and couldn’t leave. You also probably know by now that I really value the ability of an artist to connect with his/her audience. I don’t think you should play live if you are not interested in making this connection. Naturally, there are hundreds of ways an artist can build a relationship with their listeners and they are all just as good.
Amanda Palmer is one of those rare artists who seem to be able to create this connection as easily as drinking a beer – and while drinking one on stage I might add. She, and her band, pulled off a two hour non-stop show without allowing the interest and involvement of the audience to ever waver.
She talks to her audience the way you would imagine her talking to a bunch of friends: with an open heart and a few jokes to lighten the more serious moments. The audience isn’t left feeling as if they have observed a bright genius, so distant from reality that she could be an alien: she feels like one of us, down to earth, so real you can touch her.
She, on the other hand, trusts her audience. She crowd surfed several times and her audience rewarded her by contributing to the atmosphere and energy of the show. She throws herself into a sea of outstretched hands – a falling bird with a rainbow tail – and they rock her back and forth not with greed but with tender love. Back on stage she conducts the voices from the crowd like an orchestra conductor. She knows what she’s looking for and more importantly she knows how to get it from her fans. The beautiful songs she wrote are so much more powerful in her show. That’s what a live show should give more than a studio recording can.
Finally, I admired the fact that she paid her respects to the artists that inspired and influenced her playing some covers. Sometimes successful artists snub playing covers – for whatever reason – but I believe it’s always nice to acknowledge other artists while reinterpreting their work.