Thursday, October 4, 2012

Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra @ First Ave 10/3/12

This is another one of those reviews, that should have been posted just after the concert ended, but I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night as I didn't get home until 1:30AM. I may never learn the lesson, but weeknight concerts that are 18+ or 21+ unless a nap or in-late-to-work-request is made prior, really are not a desirable circumstance.

But, as far as reviewing this somewhat largely anticipated concert.

An Estimation of the Set List 

(I believe there was at least 1 Dresden Dolls or another cover in here that I am not remembering right now, but if I find a set list I'll edit it in).

-Meow Meow Introduces The Grand Theft Orchestra  
-Smile (Pictures or It Didn't Happen)
-The Killing Type
-Want It Back
-Grown Man Cry
-Trout Heart Replica
-A Grand Theft Intermission
-Bottomfeeder (Amanda goes crowd surfing with a 20x20 Sheet?)
-The Bed Song?..(sometime around this time Amanda read off the depressing messages put in the Box that were then sampled and music played over)
-Careless Whisper including jam (Wham..also George Michael)
-Olly Olly Oxen Free


-Do It with a Rockstar
-Leeds United

First let me point out, I just scanned a review here from and they referred to the Wham/George Michael tune as "Never Want to Dance Again." While that is a line in the chorus, the song is called "Careless Whisper" and not "Never Want to Dance Again." I myself didn't even know that, but at least would be responsible enough to mention that, or more likely just do a web search.

Is it really so hard to do? That is now the 2ND time in the last 6 months a reviewer on their blog had to be corrected about a fact (the Mayer Hawthorne guitarist's name back in May). Which brings me to ask the question, how do people like that get to positions where they can review (and maybe even be paid?..likely at least free tickets and perhaps backstage passes), and someone like myself receives very little to no recognition? I emailed Citypages more than once about writing for them, but obviously this blog does nothing for them. Blech.

This show was pretty LOUD and crazy at times. Amanda's TGTO or 3-piece backing band was rather tight. Although I suspect it was the people who did the mix last night who are responsible for the drums and guitar being at times too high to hear Amanda sing. At the same time, her vocals had a fair amount of reverb and distorted tone to them anyway, so that could have just been her too.

The extra chamber musicians from both local, and from some of the opening acts like Ronald Reagan, did add a lot to hearing many of these tunes live. Although at times the mix issues made them a bit difficult to hear clearly. As well, Amanda didn't have them on stage for every tune, namely a song like "Astronaut" if I recall, wondering why the string section was not included, given there are string parts in the song anyway..

Around the 4th or 5th song of Amanda's set, I want to say soon after "Want it Back," this act (DJ?) named Konkrete Jungle started spinning some heavy-bass based music in First Ave's "The Record Room," which especially given I was sitting on the Upper Level about 200 Feet in front of the Door, it became disgustingly apparent how distracting their music would become.

People kept going in and out of The Record Room to use the Restroom or for other reasons, and the bass especially was vibrating louder than Amanda's bass guitarist.

And by no coincidence it seems, this was the 2nd straight concert where Amanda played in the Main Room and another musical act in 1 of First Ave's bordering-walls was going on at the same time, and impossible to ignore.

As I recall thinking and probably writing back in 2008, when some hip-hop group could be heard in The Entry when she was playing, especially the quieter parts and just talking to the crowd; First Ave apparently does not SOUND PROOF their walls. Why this is? maybe cost or just lack of complaints?

It's shit like that, among a few other factors like the Hipster environment, failure to book certain bands, and booking Metal and cross promoting Hipfork Media music to the Metal crowd; that prevent that place from even coming close to living up to the reputation it receives. I have come around a bit with it, but last night's distraction from Konkrete Jungle (who may be great at what they do, but that doesn't matter when they end up hijacking my and I'm sure many others concert experience to a point) , in The Record Room just soured my feeling somewhat about First Ave again.

I suppose the key is to look at both The Record Room and The Entry's schedule and consider skipping a show if there's a chance another act may perform simultaneously. Especially if it's a show that I'm on the fence about anyway, on a weekend evening, there's another event to see instead, or just the price of tickets (or going down to find someone selling an extra).

Amanda herself even mentioned it on stage, if there were more time, a large group of fans with her should consider storming in there to try and get the attention of the group performing about how distracting their music is for her, while she was trying to tell a story and read off those depressing experiences from the box.

Putting the mix, arrangements and The Record Room distraction aside, this was a rather wild and chaotic show; probably more so than the show in 2008. Although less theatrical, than that last show was. I just got the sense given it was the "last show" of this tour as they said, Amanda and TGTO along with the musicians from the opening acts, wanted to go out with a bang.

They played more or less every tune I would have wanted off Theatre is Evil save for "Massachusetts Avenue" and "Melody Dean." I suppose some of the Kickstarter Bonus tracks like"Ukele Anthem" and "Provanity" as well would have been nice; but beggars can't be choosers of course and given they played almost the entire record plus a few others and the Wham/George Michael cover, the set list was fulfilling enough.

The pictures and videos even added more. And the pictures, I may me mixing up with something else like for the massive $50 BOOK that the Kickstarter campaign helped fund, I recall Amanda sending out something requesting the Kickstarter backers send in Photos or Videos of themselves? Maybe they were used for something else, but part of me wondered if some of the photos used in the background on the screens were from those Backers, and I wished I had sent one in.

One other thing I am still forgetting or thrown off by is, while this was the last show of THIS LEG of the American Tour, last time I checked, she goes to Europe in a couple of weeks, and then is back in the States doing more shows in November. Unless some of her tour was canceled?

The extra jams and things, along with thank you's I believe also came out last night due to the fact her husband Neil Gaiman was there (I don't think he was at many if any of the other shows thus far), given he lives in nearby Menomonie, Wisconsin. He even did a storytelling of sorts as 1 of the opening acts, telling his "Origin" of sorts about how he became a "writer" in some ways perhaps. I did find some of his story funny, although at times a bit over-the-top with the lude and sexual humor. I do think seeing him talk, I follow more now why Amanda and him are a couple. They do share many elements of being overtly honest, sexual and profane.

I should probably add, all of the opening acts, from Jherek Bischoff stuff including the Chamber pieces, to Chad Raines whose group The Simple Pleasure with their almost David Bowie-meets-Boy George Glam Rock, to Ronald Reagan "Boston's Premiere 80's Pop Saxophone Duo" all were entertaining, and artists I likely will seek out. I did even pick up a copy of Ronald Reagan's new EP which includes "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (Cyndi Lauper) "Take on Me" (A-ha), "We Built This City" (Starship), "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (Bonnie Tyler) and "Beat It" (Michael Jackson) among others, which they played live.