Based on his review of Amanda Palmer’s new record, if Casey Rae-Hunter was at her show at the 9:30 Club this past Tuesday, he might have been initially dismayed to find that Palmer is touring sans drummer. In fact, she is touring sans almost any other musicians at all, save some very occasional help by Lyndon Chester on violin and a single Leonard Cohen cover played with her father, who apparently lives in the Maryland burbs and possesses a deep, crooning voice.
But any worries about her sound being too sparse were quickly and firmly dispatched when Palmer, who is half of the Dresden Dolls and that band’s primary songwriter, began her set by enthusiastically banging out the chords to one of the more aggro songs on her solo album, “Astronaut.” I didn’t miss the nonexistent accompaniment at all, in fact—Palmer very effectively filled the 9:30 Club with just her keyboard and her booming, husky vocals. What accompaniment she did have was purely visual: an quartet of Australian dancers known as the Danger Ensemble, who did everything from act out certain lyrics in Palmer’s songs to bounce around crazily during “Coin-Operated Boy” to hold up umbrellas and pour champagne over them during a lip-synched “cover” of Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” (No, seriously.)
Unfortunately, because this was an early show at the 9:30 Club, the set had to wrap up by 9:00 to allow the crew to change the stage over the the late show (Eagles of Death Metal). Palmer was forced to omit some of the songs from her setlist, and judging from reports from earlier shows, D.C. missed out on some pretty fun gimmicks and covers. If anyone was expecting a replay of her topless rave outro in Asheville, they left disappointed. But they were probably the only disappointed ones in the whole crowd, lost in the collective euphoria that the best shows can elicit from all in attendance.
A show like this that leans towards performance art is naturally a treat for a photographer, so do check out some more of the visual evidence.