Monday, November 7, 2011

REVIEW: An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer
November 6, 2011, Vancouver's Vogue Theatre

One wonders what it might be like to take one’s honeymoon on a West Coast tour. That’s kinda of what Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer are doing as the pretty much just-married couple landed in Vancouver for An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at the Vogue Theatre.

One also wonders what exactly to expect from their stage show mixing the talents of a prolific author who inspires a Tumblr about his hair, with a piano-slaying, ukelele-playing singer/songwriter with painted eyebrows.
Amanda Palmer at the Vogue Theatre photo
Anja Weber photo

Let’s just say there was a lot of love going on at the Vogue last night. The love flowed from the stage to the crowd. And that love flowed right back from an enthusiastic audience not shy to cheer and whistle all night long. Palmer labelled us a “fucking fantastic audience” so it must be true.

Neil and Amanda opened with a duet of “Makin’ Whoopie” (off her 2010 release Down Under), a great song to break in everyone to the fun that was to come over the next three hours (they played until about 11:35pm).

It’s plain to see the couple has a lot of fun performing together, letting the audience in on their infectious affection for one another. They have an endearing way of communicating and each seems so comfortable with both their pairing and individuality – they just laughed when Palmer lifted her dress and flashed us her panties. Neil’s response: “Posterity has seen your knickers. Again.” Hers: “When you call them knickers, it’s just not dirty.”
                                         Amanda Palmer at the Vogue
                                                      Anja Weber photo

After “Whoopie”, Neil Gaiman read three poems, including one called “Observe The Formalities”. And it went on like that for the whole show… some Neil, then some Amanda, then some more of them together – either singing or sitting in their Golden Girls-ish wicker chairs and answering fan questions like, “Dear Neil, is it hard for you to creatively express character types like pedophiles in your writing, why or why not?” (He answered “No”, by the way.)

Palmer rattled off her influences (Beatles, Beach Boys, Prince, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper) and claimed to recently realize the need to acknowledge another… Judy Blume. With that came a piano song both funny and sad. I’ve never heard anyone sing about Deenie or Margaret’s conversations with God before. It was surprising to me and totally welcomed by the audience.

                                   Amanda Palmer at the Vogue Theatre photo
                                              Anja Weber photo

She also offered a stirring tribute, on her little red ukelele, to Ashlie, a 20-year old-woman who died Saturday at Occupy Vancouver [Gaiman and Palmer had led a contingent of fans to the site earlier that afternoon, following their "ninja gig" at a Gastown shoe store]. When it ended, she said she didn’t know what was going to happen at the local protest site, but expressed her hope that we would go and help them.

On a totally different note, Palmer’s ukelele was also used to fuel “Gaga Palmer Madonna”, an urgent ditty on what defines pop art and whether pop artist Lady Gaga is a “friend or foe”. This song is worth finding on YouTube. It’s a clever, necessary reminder to just “like what you like” and to not take pop too seriously because there’s way more important stuff going on out there. But really, check out the song, it’s hilarious.

The opening act was The Jane Austen Argument, a boy/girl duo from Melbourne – she on the piano, he leading the vocals. Their first number was inspired by his parents who met while playing Dorothy and the Scarecrow in a production of Wizard of Oz. Their third and final song is their new single called “Holes” with lyrics written by Neil Gaiman. A good vibe from them at this, their very first ever gig in Canada. Hearing and seeing them for the first time, they struck me as sounding somewhat Rufus Wainwright-y from the brief, three-song set they performed.

An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer could potentially be retitled Occupy Love. Really. Gaiman & Palmer are seriously at the hip. But it’s pretty adorable and the crowd loved it. Palmer herself told the audience we’d gotten “16 times the amount of lovey-dovey bullshit” between her and Gaiman than any other city on their tour. She attributed it to our water. I attribute it to two inventive artists topping their game with a partnership that produces a rare energy they’re willing to share and enjoy not only with each other, but with their fans too.

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