The illustrious and dynamic Amanda Palmer took the stage for 4.5 hours on Saturday, May 11, 2019, in Downtown Los Angeles. It was a balmy night and a few hundred gathered at the Ace Hotel to watch a solo performance by Amanda Palmer. As we waited for her grand entrance, Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl” blared through the speakers as fans took their seats after snapping a few selfies in the backdrop of one of the grandest settings at the Ace Hotel.
Palmer greeted fans and took to the piano to play dozens of songs between many, many personal stories about hardship, triumph, abortion trials and tribulations and stories about her mentor and longtime friend, Anthony, who died of cancer. Palmer met Anthony as a child and grew with him through the years. She turned to him over and over again, always wanting him to ‘give her the answer’ to many of her questions in life. He never would tell her what to do and believed in her wholeheartedly calling her by the nickname ‘beauty’ which she carries close to her heart.
Her first song was “Judy Blume” which was a powerful introduction and she spoke of her early music influences as an artist. She admits that her musical taste was shaped by her brother Carl, who died at a young age, and previous boyfriends. She admits she wished she embraced Ani DiFranco and Tori Amos when she was 19 years old but she rebuked them. She also had a thing for older British men at the time who helped her develop a passion for The Cure. She built up her music collection extensively by shopping at record stores every weekend. She was faced by the aftermath of death at age 19 when her grandmother and grandfather passed away a few months apart, her brother Carl and her boyfriend whom she’d broken up with died.
Palmer is a pioneer and is not silent when it comes to speaking out against many issues, particularly and recently, abortion rights. She reminded the audience that Georgia (yes, the state in the USA) passed a recent abortion bill. In fact, Governor Brian Kemp signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, effectively banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, when doctors can usually start detecting a fetal heartbeat.
Some coin her a feminist yet she strikes a balance that’s much bigger than that. She believes in equality and radical compassion and spoke of her involvement with a prison in Massachusetts and their efforts in restorative justice. What they do is bring inmates, survivors and a few others to create a space in allowing survivors and offenders to share space and listen to their apologies, pain and life experiences. After all, the suffering is universal and the public apologies in a face to face setting have been impactful and life-changing for survivors of gang violence, rape and more.
She broke out into a song, “Runs in the Family” after sharing funny stories about her early recordings and how the funniest clips were her stepfather coming in to remind her to turn off the music and that he had to wake up early. She later shared her experience in dealing with the Boston Bomber and how she was just a couple blocks away from the tragedy and was forced to stay indoors when all she wanted was to be around people. She performed on her ukulele on the song “In My Mind” and then took to the piano for “Drowning in the Sound” and then “Machete” in remembrance of Anthony, who left her guns and knives after he passed away.
Palmer’s fanbase is nothing short of supportive even while Palmer has had her fair share of being slammed by the media and conservative Christians who refute her efforts in supporting women’s rights. Her fans love her so much that they cannot contain themselves during her performance. One fan repeatedly shouted out during the show, “Amanda, I love you!” She shouted back, “I love you too!” Palmer shared how she said “so long” to the pressure of making music to sell and reached out to those who truly support her efforts and vulnerability through Kickstarter. She also received a ton of criticism for raising money through the site.
Her music is truly heart-touching and will cause you to shed a tear here and there, as well as laugh hysterically as she sings Disney songs in tribute to miscarriages and post-abortion depression. After she shared the devastation of her miscarriage and how she dealt with it alone, she busted into a Disney song, “Let it Go” from Frozen and the audience was laughing hysterically. She also sang the song, “Part of your World” from the Little Mermaid after sharing the pain of her abortion. The audience laughed at her ability to share her satirical and lightness on dealing with trauma and heavy issues.
Palmer gives her entire self to each song performance, slamming the keys on the piano feverishly and allowing her voice to basically lift your soul in one way or another. It’s hard to believe she is performing alone as she fills the space in every aspect. She encouraged the audience to cry out, “Amanda, I’m too sad!” when the mood became too heavy. When fans shouted out, “Amanda, I’m too sad!” everyone laughed and she turned to her piano to play a few uplifting, piano keys when the audience laughed and the mood shifted.
She sang the song, “A Mother’s Confession” about her day to day struggle with motherhood. The repeated phrase in the song, “at least the baby didn’t die” and “hey, this baby wanted to say hi.” She held him tight and she started to cry. And I’m sorry that this story’s gotten long and that everybody is crying in this song. “And as I got back in the car I turned the radio and heater on and sat there with the baby in the back” which provokes an emotional response. She picked the song, “The Ride” for the final song which starts off with a piano rendition that is light with lyrics, “Everyone’s too scared to open their eyes up but everyone’s too scared to close them. Everyone’s frightened they don’t know what’s coming but everyone’s frightened of knowing. And it’s just a ride. It’s just a ride. And you’ve got the choice to get off anytime that you like. The alternative’s nothingness might as well give it a try.”
She said, “I don’t want to talk about these heavy issues but I have to.” She once received guidance with the phrase, “If you can – you must” which she holds onto and encourages the audience members to hold onto as well. “If you can – you must” meaning don’t stay silent in the face of women’s rights, issues and more.