Amanda Palmer at The Wonder Ballroom 9/28
by DJ Peter
Corsets, bowler hats, black three-piece suits and gloves abounded September 28. Yet even the stifling humidity and heat of the Wonder Ballroom could not temper the enthusiasm of Amanda Palmer’s devoted cabaret rocker fan base. Hundreds of be-glittered theater kids did not wear their newly purchased Palmer-wear they’d gotten at the merchandise table; instead, they came to be seen in their carefully chosen ensemble. Though several, in fact, decided to shed a couple of layers to show off their also carefully chosen bras and bustiers. But even as the mascara ran and the eyeliner smudged, Palmer somehow shared the spotlight with her supporters.
The indie queen performed nearly all from her latest release Theatre is Evil with her DIY and locally organized Grand Theft Orchestra for nearly two hours. (Most notably missing from the set was the single “Do It With Rock Star.”) Even though Steve Albini, indie rock’s canonized producer and resident curmudgeon, recently criticized Palmer for her alleged exploitation of local musicians by not compensating them, the Orchestra’s horns and strings musicians enjoyed the spotlight with warm recognition and, yes, even some audience elation. The group’s cover of the Wham! pop classic “Careless Whisper” is all the proof needed to show Palmer’s dedication to community arts.
About halfway through the set list, while the musicians took a break, Palmer read from a box that contained confessions written by audience members. Near silence fell as she read single sentence divulgences about fan’s molestation, rape and rejection. This was followed by the sad tale of relational demise in “The Bed Song.” But in true cabaret fashion, the crowd was reanimated with the swelling surge of “Berlin,” which was then followed by rousing pleasers “Melody Dean,” “Olly Olly Oxen Free,” and “Lost.” The latter was accompanied by projected photos of people, items and pets Portland fans had “lost” and were recently uploaded to Palmer’s website.
Palmer’s performance was energized and felt tailored to the personality of the Portland audience. The show proved her chops as a performer but also demonstrated her ability in being a force effecting local communities. Her devoted fan base is testament to both of these facts.