There’s no real way of knowing how much crossover there was between the fans of Dresden Dolls singer/solo artist Amanda Palmer and fiction writer/poet Neil Gaiman before the two married last year. Now though? Well, it would have been amazingly helpful if the seating arrangement at the Palace of Fine Arts Friday night had been his and hers – to properly delineate whose fans wear more Victorian-styled coats, Sherlock Holmes hats, video game references, tucked in long-sleeves t-shirts with jeans, and early ’90s Jean-Claude Van Damme haircuts – but since that didn’t happen, it was up to the audience to stake their own claims. “We’ve been Amanda fans for quite a while,” one man told the people sitting in front of him, arm draped over his companion. “We’ve been with her longer than he has.”
“With” can be a mundane part of sentence, or it can have near biblical meaning, and “An Evening With Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer” was strangely intimate. The show, one of a number of West Coast engagements funded using Kickstarter ($133,000+ over a goal of $20,000), had a certain voyeuristic quality to it, as if the audience came not just to hear songs and poems, but check out the bride (or groom.) Which, both Palmer and Gaiman seemed to expect and welcome. His poems were at times candidly about her: “She fucks like wildcats in thunderstorms.” Her songs, even when pulled from the back catalog, seemed to address the new relationship: for instance, “Ampersand” a song about not wanting to be just half of something, found a illustrative example in the billing of the show.
At times it was a separate show, his reading, her concert (each great, as you would expect,) but they also embraced their new coupled identity. Most of the time this involved Gaiman taking part in musical numbers. His flat, politely English voice never straying too far from poetic recitation, was best when contrasted with her powerful bombast. Sometimes it was adorably understated: the two opened the night with a duet of “Makin’ Whoopee,” which cleverly referenced Gaiman’s apparent slight nervousness and the tribulations of a married couple. “I Google You,” an internet torch song sung by Gaiman with Palmer on the piano, was the most thematically representative of the night, touching on the tribulations of love and romance in the modern world.
Occasionally Gaiman seemed somewhat out of his element. When Palmer sang “I’m Waiting for the Man” to her husband as part of an ongoing birthday present of Lou Reed/Velvet Underground covers, he was seated in stage center for the duration, with little more to do than try to look comfortable. And whether because it was rushed or for other reasons, the penultimate number of the night, “Whole Wide World,” was fairly lifeless despite backup singers. (Palmer would close the show on a higher note with her just released “Ukelele Anthem,” which she described as “a great all purpose song – I sang it last night to a bunch of neuroscientists and today to people at Occupy Oakland.’)
Ultimately, the audience was loving, and seemed to appreciate the whole novelty of the night. Less of a night for making new fans, it was for the ones that already had an outstanding relationship – that read all their books, bought all their albums, and follows them on Twitter (but read the blogs way before that.) It was more of a chance to catch up. And where the show appeared unrehearsed, it also seemed genuine, which isn’t really a quality I associate with celebrity marriages.
An extremely long set list:
Opener from Australia, The Jane Austen Argument is suitably theatrical. One of its songs, an extended double entendre, “Holes,” has lyrics by Gaiman.
Palmer (on ukelele): “Makin’ Whoopee” (w/ Gaiman)
“Dear Old House That I Grew Up In”
“Gaga. Palmer. Madonna: A Polemic”
Gaiman (poems): “The Rhyme Maidens”
“Making a Chair”
“I Will Write in Words of Fire”
“The Day the Saucers Came”
Palmer (on piano): “Ampersand”
Gaiman: “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” (short story)
“I Google You” (w/ Palmer on Piano)
Palmer (on piano): “Judy Blume”
“Runs in the Family”
Palmer & The Jane Austen Argument: “The Flowers” by Regina Spektor
Palmer (on piano): “I’m Waiting for the Man” by The Velvet Underground
Gaiman (short story): “Other People”
Gaiman w/ Palmer on piano: “The Problem with Saints”
Gaiman (poem): “For Amanda, An Appreciation After Christopher Fry, Sort Of’’
Gaiman w/ Palmer on piano: “Jump” by Derek and Clive
Gaiman w/ Palmer on ukelele and backup vocals from The Jane Austen Argument:
“Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric
Palmer (on ukelele): “Ukelele Anthem”