... because that way she'll live forever," said Neil Gaiman during his surprise cameo at the Amanda Palmer show tonight in Chicago.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
Tonight I went into Chicago to see Zoe Keating live. She was opening for Amanda Palmer. I couldn't believe I had the opportunity to see the amazing Zoe Keating perform, and she was outstanding. You wouldn't think someone could layer six different parts onto one cello, but she can. Of course she can. So even though she only got to play three songs by herself, I stood next to the speakers the whole time, and could feel the vibrations in my shoes. It was spiritual.
Then we found out that we'd actually gotten there late, and the other opening band had already played, so Amanda Palmer was up next. Now... let me just preface with this - I don't particularly like Amanda Palmer's voice, OR some of her songs. I find her unmusical much of the time, and the chest voice she uses is just unnecessarily harsh sounding. All she does is bang on they piano most of the time (with some notable exceptions) and as a piano player myself, that always bothers me. But, god dammit. That woman can put on an AMAZING SHOW!!!!
First Neil Gaiman comes out, unexpectedly, as the audience gives a unison gasp and whips out cameras, and reads a long poem about the death of Amanda Palmer, while four performers slowly walk around the stage crying. They looked like moving statues - so very beautiful. And the costumes were astounding. I want to wear clothes like that all the time. (Correction - I want to live in a place where I can wear clothes like that all the time.) Zoe Keating played her cello for this as well, along with a waifish young british lad that looked like a Gorey illustration. Then the dancers slowly gather to the edge of the stage and you suddenly notice Amanda Palmer standing there, looking like the resurrected dead; the four people help her on stage out of the crowd and carry her to the keyboard, placing her hands on the keys.
The concert starts from there. It was great. The best parts were when the dancers would come back out and do some crazy choreographed number, including wandering through the audience with "will kiss for kash" signs during Coin Operated Boy. (This is not my video but one I found on YouTube. At least you can see what I'm talking about.)
And yes... they would kiss for cash. I didn't get to try this out, but I saw many and much boy-on-boy slobbering tonight.
The dancers included a lovely short haired blond girl, a voluptuous red head, a bald guy that looked for every ounce of his soul to be Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins (and I mean seriously, he even had the sneer right), and a plump dark haired guy who seemed to be the star of the little side show (and I found out later was the director of the theater group, so go figure). I would learn later that they were from Australia and had accepted the job of working with Amanda during her tour absolutely free. Which means that they got to wander through the audience asking for money to put in their boots at the end of the show. :) I gave deep.
Near the end, Amanda did a big number with the dancers where she lip synced to the song Umbrella while playing a ukulele. This is, again, not my video, but one I found on YouTube. If you can ignore the annoying girl singing over the video, it's a blast.
Anyway, various members of the opening bands would join songs from time to time, so I got to see much more Zoe Keating, as well as the band we'd missed to begin with, during the closing number where they all sang "Living on a Prayer" with the audience. The show closed with Amanda's new song Leeds United, every other band on stage playing with her, including the first band's brass section.
For some reason I looked at a young guy with a long brown beard, joyfully playing a black trumpet next to an old man with a long white beard, joyfully playing a brass trumpet, and I started to get a little misty. I always end up feeling that way when an overwhelming number of people get to participate in one big song together. I always got misty during the biggest numbers even back when I was in chorus. I get misty watching audiences sing along at concerts, especially when they can sing well. And I got misty tonight. Then suddenly everyone was doing a can-can across the front of the stage; performers, stage hands, roadies, security guards, and then an old man came up and joined the end of the can-can, dancing as best he could.
And I broke. A tear trickled out of my eye. I tried to smile it away. And then I felt another. And suddenly I knew I was crying. I was crying because I was watching an old man do the can-can on stage because he was so happy to be part of the music that everyone was enjoying, no matter how old or young, fat, thin, race, sexual orientation - everyone was in love and everyone was having the time of their life making music. And I was crying.
God dammit. I cried at an Amanda Palmer show. And I don't even like Amanda Palmer. :) (That is a lie after tonight, of course.)
After the show, we waited in the merch line for ever and ever, only to discover that Amanda was behind the counter giving autographs and love to everyone. And by love, I do mean love. I told her I wouldn't hold up her line, but the show was amazing and I reached out to give her a hug. She leaned forward, hugged me, then kissed me on the lips. Previously I'd seen a young lesbian literally BAWLING with joy at getting to hold Amanda in her arms. Amanda rocked her and coddled her until she stopped crying. What an amazing person. I also hugged the director of the theater troupe, and gave him more donation money. He was very, very nice.
The evening ended with us freezing our asses off getting back to the car to warm up and find our jackets (did I mention it was below freezing tonight? WELL BELOW), then eating amazing food and having dirty martinis at a restaurant that was almost next door to the venue, while getting to sing and play with the owner and our waiter, since we were one of only two groups of people at that restaurant that night.
What a good time. I can't believe I cried at a random show like this. And I kissed Amanda Palmer. I'm going to go to sleep now, and I'll probably dream of lovely women and beautiful music. I feel lost and happy, all at the same time.
(Originally posted on December 4th, 2008)