Amanda Palmer knows how to put on a show. Her set at subterranean London club Heaven lasts the best part of two and a half hours and she never seems to run out of energy. Palmer has nothing to plug, no new release to promote, so she’s able to roam freely and widely through her back catalogue, mixing solo tracks with covers and a scattering of Dresden Dolls numbers, as well as testing out some new material.
Clad in a shiny, shiny silver corset and a soon-discarded hat, she begins with Astronaut, the opener from solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer? before diving Dresden Dolls’ Girl Anachronism. She voices a worry that her typical fan has a tendency to be apprehensive about letting loose, so as a precursor to her synth-led new material she primes the crowd by getting a dancer called Super Kate to lead the audience in an energetic routine to The Safety Dance. She follows this with a run of new songs in which Massachusetts Avenue, an orchestral ode to her home town, stands out.
It’s genuinely hard to pick a high point from a night that encompasses a ukulele version of Radiohead’s Idioteque (from the limited release album, Amanda Palmer Plays The Popular Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele), a glorious cover of Regina Spektor’s Flowers and a rendition of The Problem With Saints, a song co-written by regular collaborator Ben Folds, with Neil Gaiman taking lead vocals. The ukulele surfaces again later for a couple of audience requests, including the warmly received Map Of Tasmania, a witty hymn to the pleasures of going natural in the pubic area.
Palmer’s encore packs in as much as most gigs. Tim Minchin pops up to perform You Grew On Me, a love song in typically dubious taste, and he’s not the only guest of the night; Palmer appears to have coaxed several friends along and Tom Robinson is the next to join her, leading the crowd in the anthemic Glad To Be Gay. Palmer follows this with a stomping cover of Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me before wrapping things up with a riotous run through of Leeds United in which the entire stage seems to explode with people: Minchin and Gaiman are on backing vocals; Shakira’s violinist, wearing what looks like a bolero made from Quality Street wrappers, is dancing with the female half of Palmer’s support act Bitter Ruin; there’s a trombonist in the balcony, a horn section in the far corner, and a general sense of exhilaration that floods off the stage and flows through the crowd so that by the end of the night even the most kohl-eyed and introspective of her audience are punching the air, dancing with abandon, and generally getting lost in the moment.