“There’s no Hitler and no Holocaust, no winter and no Santa Claus”
I’ve seen Amanda Fucking Palmer play on three separate occasions; as one half of The Dresden Dolls, with her band The Grand Theft Orchestra, and alone on a stage with her ukulele. And each time she’s wrung an entirely different range of emotional nuance from the same set of songs. Obviously, she didn’t play the exact same setlist every time, but the same songs do come up, and she interprets them differently each time. It can get boring for an artist to play the same hits note for note for year after year, so it’s hardly radical to want to change things up. But I think in Palmer’s case, because her writing is so personal and her relationship with her audience so intimate, that the changes in the way she plays her older material very much reflect where she is in her head and in her heart at any given time. Thus, the intensely theatrical quality of her Dresden Dolls performances may have been a facade of youthful bravado, while the unvarnished intimacy of her most recent shows reflect the joy and insecurity of an artist entering an uncharted level of maturity. Palmer was, on her latest tour, celebrating the publication of her first book and the impending arrival of her first child. Not surprisingly, emotions ran high. Being a published author and a parent is a degree of respectability that even people who actively expect those things for themselves find overwhelming. Amanda Palmer, who’s made her career dodging around outside the conventions of respectable expectations, is wrestling out a lot of ambivalent feelings as she redefines her identity as an artist and as a woman. Taking such huge steps in life inevitably forces one to reexamine themselves, who they are, who they’ve been all their lives, who they’re about to become, and if they’re public figures, they have to examine who they are to their fans. Amanda Palmer plays all of those things out on stage, as her professional identity evolves along with her personal life. Which is part of what makes her one of the most compelling and original voices of her time.