Friday, 13 September 2013

Gig Review - Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra

Stolen from Jo!

Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra
Live @ The Tivoli, Brisbane (12/09/13)
Supported by Die Roten Punkte and Jherek Bischoff
Review by Matt Bond

Oh, Amanda Palmer. You're so fine. You're so fine you blow my mind. Amanda Palmer. End of review. But not really. The long wait for Palmer to return to our shores and perform tracks from the brilliant album Theatre Is Evil came to an end last night, as Jo and I made our way to The Tivoli for some fun times with the Grand Theft Orchestra. 

Before AFP took to the stage, the audience was entertained by Berlin's brother-sister duo, Die Roten Punkte. Palmer continues her winning ways in selecting awesome support acts with these guys. They are funny. Laugh out loud funny. Astrid and Otto Rot also delivered some awesome pop-rock songs in-between all the laughs. 'Burger Store Dinosaur' and its hidden subtext that tells the story of a boy dinosaur meeting a girl dinosaur and having lots of dinosaur sex (oldest story in the book) and 'Second Best Friend' were fantastic. But the standout had to be the Astrid penned 'The Situation'. It's a true story, a short one, but a true one that she had to run home and write down immediately. It involves a stranger placing their finger somewhere on Astrid's body, preventing her from sitting down. Yep. I was so caught up in the fun of everything, I didn't even question that IT WAS ALL A LIE! They're not German at all... They're Australian! They're taking the piss out of the White Stripes (their name is translated to The Red Dots) and they're not related and "Astrid" plays the drums and "Otto" plays the guitar and... they're still the funnest supporting act I've seen in forever. 

Jherek Bischoff treated us to two songs, one a banging, looping bass jam and the other a quieter, looping ukulele number. The "shhhhh" noises from some dude started all the ocean noises coming out. Seagull humans. Wave humans. All that was missing was someone making the foghorn sound. A missed opportunity, Brisbane. 

Then came our main event... Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra. They did not disappoint. Things escalated quite dramatically from the opening lines of 'Do It With a Rockstar', with Palmer leaping into the crowd and getting The Tivoli to mosh it up with her. She must have made her way through the entire ground floor before briefly contemplating returning to the stage, instead choosing to run up the stairs to the balcony as a cover of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' started to play. She straddled the rail, I thought she'd jump... I wanted to look away but couldn't. This was already a rock show to remember. As Palmer made her way back to the stage she pointed out that even if she had wanted to jump, no one would have been ready to catch her. There was a sea of camera phones being held up from the crowd below. 

Now, you'll have to forgive me. Instead of thinking of what I'd say in a review, I opted to really enjoy the show and it now seems like a surreal blur. What follows might not be in the right order and will probably just be a random stream of thoughts that are hitting me as I'm writing. All of the songs performed from Theatre Is Evil were fantastic. 'The Killing Type' and 'Want It Back' had The Tivoli singing along as loud as they could. With the focus back on the stage, you could see how much The Grand Theft Orchestra (Jherek Bischoff, Chad Raines and Tarzan Thor Harris) were enjoying themselves. Bischoff was even sitting on Raines at one point as they continued to play their guitars. The banter with the crowd was suitably playful, with the band turning a request for a song about the seaside (in a return to the Bischoff debacle - seriously, Brisbane?) into a small Jimmy Buffett 'Margaritaville' cover. Raines telling seaside man to, "be careful what you wish for. Jerk." was worth the price of admission. 

My personal highlights were always going to be Theatre Is Evil faves 'The Bed Song' and 'Bottomfeeder', so with bias I declare them the tracks of the night. You could feel the collective hearts of 1000 music fans breaking as AFP played through 'The Bed Song'. Someone must have been throwing cups of water around the crowd or something, because hearing it live for the first time and at approximately exhibit E, I could feel just a little bit of water on my face, specifically in the eye region. Yep. Cups of water were being thrown around that night. For 'Bottomfeeder', Palmer donned a massive cape before falling into the crowd and covering them in the ocean-like material. 'Lost' wasn't quite the singalong I was expecting from those in attendance, but it definitely had everyone bopping around the place. 

'Astronaut' and 'Leeds United' represented the Who Killed Amanda Palmer? era, with the Grand Theft Orchestra's take on Leeds being another gig highlight and fun singalong moment. The ukulele was brought out for a rendition of 'Gaga, Palmer, Madonna', which I think caught everyone by surprise. Palmer's been spending a lot of time thinking about Miley Cyrus apparently, so the song was busted out for her sake. Or something, it's all about artists being free to do what they want. Or something. AFP's housemate dance onstage during Leeds (those fake Germans were there too) and performed a song of her own with the Grand Theft Orchestra. Oh... and Jo got to hold Amanda Palmer's hand and dance around to a cover of Pulp's 'Common People' with her. It looked like there was some intense eye contact going on there. There was also a cover of a track by one of Palmer's friends in Boston which was intended as a massive 'love' moment where the lights went low as everyone sang along to something about love or something. AFP herself pointed out that there would be some Australian guy at the bar thinking, "fucking hippies." But I wasn't at the bar.

There were some deviations from the setlist throughout (which is easy to read when you're in the front row - boom!), including the encore performances, with the scheduled 'Half Jack' being swapped out for a ukulele-tastic 'Map of Tasmania'. That left the always incredible 'Missed Me' and the second and final encore track, 'Girl Anachronism' as Palmer's Dresden Dolls tracks for the night. All in all, Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra delivered a perfectly imperfect set that stands as my favourite gig of  the year. The tracks performed off Theatre Is Evil were everything you would have wanted them to be and then some, the band pulled off a Nirvana cover (which is no easy feat) and made me dance along to a Pulp song (which is no easy feat). The talent on stage was extraordinary. So was the gig. Go see Amanda Palmer whenever you can. 

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