This is what 21st century rock stardom looks like: Amanda Palmer, in a black bra, corset, and arm stockings, leaning over the second floor balcony at the Metro holding a megaphone up to her lips and singing to a crowd of fans, many of whom helped her raise more than $1.1 million to fund her new record Theatre is Evil.
The scene unfolded during Palmer’s encore, which followed a lengthy two-hour set last Saturday night. The performance came on the heels of the Theatre is Evil September release. Her set included body surfing during “Bottomfeeder,” the enormous train of her dress draping over the heads of the audience, projecting fan-submitted photos during her song “Lost,” and accompanying herself on electric piano for much of the night.
Palmer’s high-arching, extravagant music, her sardonic wit and outré onstage appearance further nurture cultish adoration among young people who see themselves as out of the mainstream. Her fans’ devotion are reflected on her Twitter where she has more than 700,000 followers.
Palmer, who first made her mark a few years back as the dominant half of the Brechtian cabaret goth-punk duo the Dresden Dolls, performed Theatre Is Evil almost in its entirety—along with a few songs from the Dresden Dolls catalog. The most compelling moments, though, were when Palmer revealed the sensitivity and vulnerability underneath her bravado. She sang a pleading melody over unsettling strings on “Trout Heart Replica,” sketched a relationship gone cold on the devastating “The Bed Song,” and for a final encore performed a deeply reverent version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Those moments revealed the true key to Palmer’s grassroots, her willingness to wear her big, bawdy heart on her arm sleeve.
Photograph: Shervin Lainez