An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at the Town Hall was a joyous, darkly humorous, and intimate affair to remember.
First, a little bit of an intro: I’ve dreamed of catching Amanda Palmer live eversince I first heard of the punk cabaret duo, The Dresden Dolls. This dream came true back in August thanks to Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors free summer concert series. She was touring with The Grand Theft Orchestra but to everyone’s delighted surprise, Amanda called Brian Viglione onto the stage after telling us she was just asking him if he wanted to borrow her tights. This gave me a brief glimpse of the Dresden Dolls in concert — it was surreal and left me wanting more. Brian now plays with the Violent Femmes if you didn’t know that yet.
Just like Amanda before meeting (and eventually marrying Neil), I admit to have only regretfully heard of the wonderful author in passing and mostly through his Tumblr fans who shared some remarkable quotes and later on, a most excellent comic strip inspired by Neil’s Make Good Art speech. I did eventually pick up Stories: All-New Tales from Powell’s of Portland, Oregon — it’s jam-packed with inventive and most deftly-woven short stories by authors both familiar and new. I would have to give the best story prop to Al Sarrantonio’s The Cult of the Nose although Neil’s was so darkly whimsical and Chuck Palahniuk’s was surprisingly fresher than his recent books which left me bored. Go get a copy of this anthology as soon as you can, Neil Gaiman’s note alone makes it worth it.An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer was originally slated for Saturday, November 23rd, but the tickets sold out quickly that the couple added another date for us sorry fans. From the moment we walked into the Town Hall, I was treated to a visual feast of lovely punks and goths dressed in their most righteous outfits befitting the occasion. Much theorizing was made over the guy with steampunk buttons jammed into his eyes — were they glued or pinned? How did he manage to make them stick? Another one who stood out was the girl with pink streaks and lovely tights who would go on to ask me during the intermission what brand and shade of green dye I used on my hair. I change my hair so often but if you’re also curious, this time it was Manic Panic’s Enchanted Forest.
Everything about that night was a cool story waiting to happen so I’m just going to point out a few highlights. For a more detailed breakdown, check out Bleeding Cool’s review of the evening.
1. Amanda and Neil opening with “Makin’ Whoopee.” I had previously seen this on Youtube but that did not make Neil’s deadpan delivery any less funny. The male half of the old couple behind us knew most of the lines, not a surprise since Google tells me this song was first popularized by Eddie Cantor in the 1928 musical Whoopee!
2. Amanda’s spirited performance of “Coin-Operated Boy.”
3. Their love poems for each other. Amanda’s was cute, Neil’s was darkly poignant and melancholy.
4. Neil’s reading of his short story, “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.” This was perfect in ways that I’d be too pretentious to elucidate. I highly suggest you listen to the short story here. Also, if you’re a book nerd like me or just like reading in general, you can start with Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
5. Then there was the Q&A portion. I was especially taken by Amanda’s response to the question of whether she wants to be considered a feminist role model: “Once you try to be a role model, that’s when you start sucking.”
6. Amanda’s ode to Judy Blume. Judy is Amanda’s “should-have-been-obvious-influence-that-I-could-have-cited-but-didn’t” figure so she wrote an entire song about her with dramatized recollections of her childhood. I may remember everything out of order so make sure to check out the professional review.
7. Australian cabaret performer Meow Meow and Lance Horne bringing down the laughs and bonus entertainment. Meow Meow performed “Missed Me” with Amanda and then proceeded to pick out a guy in a very bright shirt with glasses to hold her waist while she’s performing so she “could do something with my hands.” Before the song was over, she was taking out her bra pads complaining that she was just trying them out that night and they were distracting. Hilarious with a capital H.
8. Claudia Gonson, Neil, and Amanda treating us to a performance of The Magnetic Fields’ “Come Back From San Francisco.” Claudia is a personal friend of Neil’s who proved to be a much bigger deal to Amanda than Stan Lee whose work she knew nothing about when she met him. This was one of the few stories they have regarding Amanda’s cluelessness when it comes to Neil’s friends in the world of fiction. Claudia Gonson’s dad also happens to personally know Judy Blume and she then went on to share a funny dinner story involving Judy and her son.
9. Neil’s anecdotes of Amanda’s hilarious run-ins with his author friends. Earlier that day, they met JJ Abrams and Amanda was hurrying Neil because they “really needed to go.” To say that I found this cute may be understating my emotions about that anecdote and everything that went down that night.
10. Amanda and Kat Robichaud’s powerful performance of The Dresden Dolls’ “Delilah.” As if we didn’t have enough memories to hold on to, Amanda went on to introduce us all to Kat Robichaud — a recently eliminated contender of The Voice, a show most of us including Amanda have never seen before. Up until their fated Twitter encounter, Amanda just assumed everything about the show was evil. I admit I am very skeptical about reality shows too. She did an interview with Kat on her blog which set the record straight on that. Kat told Amanda she only really needed to see her video clips, Amanda told Kat that she was the real winner for being with us that night and then welcomed her to the dark side. What followed was an impassioned performance of The Dresden Dolls’ Delilah which brought me to tears in a fortunately dim and intimate room.
This was one of those tracks that kept me going while being inconsolably sad and uninspired in Singapore before. Having Kat’s amazing vocals just added a whole new “you guys, please stop making me cry” dimension to the performance. And then it all came to a close. But not without Amanda revealing the exciting news that after a long time of trying, they are finally making their way down to New York. Neil will be upstate so he can continue to make things up and write them down, Amanda’s looking for a NYC apartment so she can be in the city. I love that couple and like everyone else in attendance, I too hope we can do that entire night again in the near future.
And so it came to pass that I spent a magical Friday evening with the lovingly unkempt Neil, the fantastically weird Amanda, and their equally delightful guests and friends. Big props to the Town Hall for being such a lovely intimate venue although I would have changed the stage lighting if it were up to me.