An Evening with Jack & Amanda Palmer
First Parish Church–Lexington, Mass.
Monday, July 18, 2016
For the two decades that I’ve been a music critic my mom hasn’t been to any shows with me. We crossed that off the to-do list last night when my mom and I went to see Jack and Amanda Palmer perform songs from their debut album You Got Me Singing. A sold-out sweaty crowd packed the pews in the 90 degree stuffiness and ultimately enjoyed an intimate evening filled with songs and love and hugs. I’ve witnessed first-hand and spoken with the devoted Amanda Palmer fans who will travel hours to see her. They also support her art projects. This new album is fully backed by Patreon. Amanda’s a genuine, heartfelt soul and spectacular performer. The tour started in D.C. where Jack Palmer lives then traveled to Amanda’s hometown of Lexington, Mass. before continuing on to her other homes of New York City and upstate New York. It’s pretty well sold-out so enjoy if you managed to snag a ticket. It’s a moving, exquisite treat. Music heals. Music is an outlet and during these turbulent and violent times we need music more than ever.
Amanda came out solo with her beloved ukulele and walked up and down the aisles singing “In My Mind.” She then heralded: “This is church Thor and Amanda Palmer-style where our god is art.” She then sat down to the piano and played the alternately urgent and gentle song “Machete” which she wrote for her best friend Anthony who died of cancer last year. She explained that he taught her about compassion and love. He also left her his firearm collection which she’d like to just pitch to the bottom of the ocean along with all other weapons. Amanda’s father Jack stepped out with his acoustic guitar and sang the Leonard Cohen song “You Got Me Singing,” the title of their album. He’s quite comfortable performing. A gentle man with a deep, resonant voice, before performing the Phil Ochs song “In the Heat of the Summer,” John stated: “Like many folks songs, this one stays relevant.” It’s a subdued yet dramatic song. The pair spent years carefully choosing songs to cover over several years. Amanda admitted they could’ve recorded much more. There’s beautiful harmonizing between father and daughter. The instrumental opening act Thor & Friends added an eclectic, worldly orchestral back up with viola, drums, guitar, bass and xylophones.
Amanda took the lead on several songs including the Sinead O’Connor song “Black Boys on Mopeds,” a heartbreaking song rendered beautifully by Palmer: “these are dangerous days/ to say what you feel is to dig your own grave.” For the kiddie song “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” Amanda said it was a good time to take out your babies to put to sleep or if anyone wanted a nap to “find a motherly figure and make a nest not in a rapey way, get consent.” Much applause. She proceeded to sing all wide-eyed with plenty of hand gestures. She might need to record one of those lullaby albums. The Noah Britton song “I Love You So Much” included an audience sing-along but not before Amanda started and stopped a few times before declaring “I’m playing in the wrong key. It’s C, not A.” Her father smiled, “That’s why I love live music.”
Besides Leonard Cohen and Sinead O’Connor many of the artists weren’t that familiar to the mostly alternative audience. That doesn’t mean people didn’t appreciate them. The album’s a love note. The performance an engulfing repast. While Lexington and Boston are not directly affected by tragedy, Amanda declared: “Everywhere is here and everyone that’s getting hurt is us. We need more music.” The opening act Thor & Friends charmed with its soothing meditative, positive-vibrations instrumental arrangements and entertained with Thor’s charm. Overall the evening proved to be a blissful love fest. Oh and my mom enjoyed it. Of Amanda: “She’s adorable and talented and happy.” Because her daughter is not.
–review by Amy Steele