REVIEW: Amanda Palmer – Limelight, Belfast

DSC_4981aAmanda Palmer was once described as “the most hated woman on the internet” but the packed Limelight venue tells a different story.

For such a cult and niche performer Palmer has attracted a vast and wide ranging crowd such is her adoring fan base. She cuts a striking figure at 6 months pregnant, clothed in a silk sheath dress and robe and with flowers in her hair.

As she launches into her vast back catalogue it appears that Palmer is a highly talented pianist. On ‘Astronaut‘ these skills  are evident as she hammers the keys with force and precision rarely seen outside a concert pianist. Throughout the show she is engaging and witty, and refers to the gig as her “Last Supper” before she has her baby and “life changes forever”.

Palmer clearly enjoys the spotlight and creating her art and likes to make it interactive for her audience so she announces that she is willing to take requests as long as she can play it and no one requests Kate Bush. Eager hands shoot up around the room and Palmer follows through on her promise playing cross sections of her back catalogue like ‘The Bed Song’, ‘Ampersand‘ and the astounding ‘Judy Blume’.

‘Vegemite (The Black Death)’ is a welcome interlude, although beginning like a classic love song it soon transpires to be a work of comedy and its obvious that she’s very talented at this element of songwriting also.  This, followed by ‘Tazmania‘ which is a body positive song played on the ukulele lightens the mood.

The  ‘An Evening with Amanda Palmer’ tour was in part promotion of her recent book ‘The Art of Asking’ which she reads an extract from, about her husband, the novelist Neil Gaiman. The book was based on a TED talk she gave in which she spoke about how she produces her music nowadays; crowdfunding using Kickstarter and now Patrion; inviting fans to play on her albums and tours. At times it does seem like watching an infomercial for the Amanda Palmer product such is her many deviations of art.


With the arrival onstage of assistant and backing singer Whitney Moses, Palmer does a small Q&A where she answers questions written earlier in the evening by the audience and with one about her pregnancy she neatly segues into a cover of comedic duo Garfunkel and Oates’ song ‘Pregnant Women are Smug’ much to the delight of the crowd.

Moses stays on stage to sing on what is arguably one of the most emotional songs of the show, ‘Delilah‘ from Palmers time in The Dresden Dolls. With its tough subject matter of physical and emotional abuse and heartrending piano its leaves the audience speechless and a few members of the audience are moved to standing ovation.

Staying with Dresden Dolls material Palmer astounds again with ‘Coin Operated Boy‘ with its staccato rhythm and surrealism. Ending the show with ‘Ukulele Anthem’  played. naturally, on a ukulele, she encourages her listeners to embrace their strangeness and creativity.

Amanda Palmer can certainly not be accused of not embracing her creativity and strangeness. Everything she does is tinged with art and sometimes smacks of  ‘trying too hard’ but for me Amanda Palmer shone the brightest when at the keys, stripped back and singing her heart out in front of the people she clearly adores. Her fans. Sarah McCrossan, GiggingNI.com