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Following a veritable firestorm of viral, Internet success behind her recent Kickstarter for her new album Theatre is Evil, Amanda Palmer stormed through Los Angeles with her new band, The Grand Theft Orchestra. This, a mini-tour of sorts for the diehard Amanda Palmer fans that supported the Kickstarter before a full-on tour begins in the Fall, included a pair of shows in each market. The first of which a more standard rock show at The Roxy, the second an art gallery presentation of all the art inspired by the album coupled with a special intimate performance at Pop tART art gallery. Expectedly, these shows served as something of a victory lap for the new album, and many of the new album cuts were performed.
Jherek Bischoff, of Palmer’s new band The Grand Theft Orchestra doubled as opener, bringing a symphonic approach to the show with a small quartet of players. Bischoff was joined by Craig Wedren for two songs during the set. It lacked the pizzazz of Amanda Palmer’s full band performance, but something has to be said for being able to pull off a classical approach to music with conducting in a rock club. After that, Bischoff took his place on bass guitar and fellow GTO members Michael McQuilken (on drums) and Chad Raines (on guitar) arrived at their instruments. Amanda Palmer herself arrived toting an open bottle of wine, sporting a silver kimono and received a roar of enthusiasm from the crowd on hand. New album single “Do It Wth a Rockstar” got the evening rolling with Palmer’s shouted call, “Do you want to dance? / Do you want to fight? / Do you want to get drunk and stay the night?” Already this show was a massive evolution of Palmer’s sound, as Palmer amped up the crowd bounding around the stage with her wine bottle as the GTO played all the music. Past shows from Amanda Palmer normally featured her solo on piano with sparse, sporadic accompaniment. The backdrop fits her well though, as it gives a perfect foil for her mega-confident lioness energy.
The Dresden Dolls song “Missed Me” follows and gives the four-piece a chance to show off both musicianship and stage presence; Palmer pauses at key points and the whole band manically runs around the stage to switch instruments and continue the song. New Theatre is Evil tracks “The Killing Type” and “Lost” come next and impressively, the band has greater chemistry than one would expect for being relatively new. Palmer introduces the band and explains how many of the string arrangements on the upcoming album were handled by Bischoff. The next two songs “Trout Heart Replica” and “The Bed Song” feature a stripped-down formulation of the band with Bischoff conducting the same string section from earlier. Palmer has spoken on her Twitter feed at great length about “The Bed Song,” and for good reason. It’s a rare piece of brutally honest from-the-heart songwriting that’s not to be missed. Second single “Want it Back” from the new album brings the show’s energy back up to lively and the set proper ends with a trio of songs (“Want it Back, “Massachusetts Avenue” and “Olly Oxen Free”) backed by a quintet of horn players, displaying yet another intriguing face of Palmer’s new sound.
Returning for their encore, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra return to play the night’s only song from Palmer’s first solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer, “Leeds United.” Many of the audience members are invited on stage to dance, and Palmer ends the night with a stage dive and crowd surf. Yes, this simplistic singer-songwriter that has often playfully referred to herself as Amanda “Fucking” Palmer has now transitioned into a full-on rock star. Her star is rising, and she has both the chops and attitude to carry an audience to ecstatic joy. Even more impressive is that some of her most famous songs “Oasis” and “Coin-Operated Boy” were not performed and no one in the crowd seemed to find. It’s seldom that any band or performer can get away with not performing some of their greatest hits and acting like they never existed. It’s a testament to Amanda Palmer’s persistent engagement and interaction with her fans, and just maybe that we’re about to see her explode in popularity. It’s hard to stop the train once it’s moving, and usually you just want to get out of the way and watch it roll on by.
All photos by Raymond Flotat