Ever since hearing about this gig several months ago, I have been looking forward to it. Not only is Amanda Palmer one of my favourite artists, but I have seen her live twice before, and each time was completely different - I was looking forward to seeing if this trend would continue or whether this had just been a pure coincidence. To say I wasn’t disappointed would honestly be an understatement.

I was foolish enough to believe when we arrived at the venue at around 7pm and there was no queue outside that it would be easy to get in and have a good view. But one thing I have certainly learnt is that AFP fans are dedicated. When we got inside, there was already quite a crowd in the small, sweaty venue. I later found out that there had been a queue going around the block at around 5.30pm. I think part of the attraction is that Amanda Palmer has a very close relationship with her fans. She uses Twitter and a personal blog to communicate with us and is very open and honest. Now that she is no longer part of Roadrunner records, she even makes most of her music available through a ‘pay what you want’ system, meaning every fan can afford to get an album and hear her music.

By the time we managed to squeeze as close to the front as we could (squashed up in a corner by the doorway but with a fairly decent view thanks to a sloping floor) we had missed the first support act but we did manage to catch a bit of Bitter Ruin, who are worth checking out if you haven’t heard them before, I especially like their new single ‘Trust’.

It was fairly early in the evening still when Bitter Ruin finished their set and I thought surely the main show can’t be starting yet. After a short break, Bitter Ruin came back out and introduced us to another act, a belly dancer, who came out and gave us a little dance.

When Amanda Palmer came on, she launched the show in style with the powerful ‘Astronaut’ and kept this amazing start going by playing two Dresden Dolls songs ‘Girl Anachronism’ and ‘Missed Me’ (two of my personal favourites). She then introduced us to her new backing band and went on to say how it was a bit of a strange tour as she hasn’t got anything to promote but is testing out the new band. She then mentioned her release last year, a Radiohead ukulele album, and played the track ‘Idioteque’ from it.

Following this was the awesome ‘Guitar Hero’ before she brought out the first of her ‘special guests’, Bitter Ruin, who sang the Dresden Dolls song ‘Deliah’ with her which was swiftly followed by another special guest, her husband and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman who sang a song from a project they worked on together. Then, first support act The Jane Austen Argument came and sang a Regina Spektor cover (The Flowers) with her.

After this range of special guests, she told us she was going to play some new songs for us but they had more of a dancy feel, and she didn’t think the typical AFP/Dresden Dolls fan would ‘get it’ so to prepare us, she brought out ‘Super Kate’ who led us through a couple of dance/exercise routine! Then of course, Amanda Palmer went onto play the four new songs which sounded fantastic (and even had synths)! although she did say the songs weren’t really ready yet and requested any people that had filmed the songs didn’t share them.

Afterwards, to treat us she played a cover of INXS ‘Never Tear us Apart’ followed by her own tracks ‘Runs in the Family’ and ‘Oasis’ as the last song. It was still fairly early as this point so I thought this surely can’t be it and it really wasn’t!

The encore was at least half hour and was full of surprises. The first and probably the best was another special guest, the brilliant Tim Minchin! He came and played us one of his songs before AFP came out, this time just with her ukulele and asked for requests from the audience. The songs she ended up playing were the ever so catchy ‘Map of Tasmania’ and ‘In My Mind’.

Then she brought out yet another special guest, this time musician and radio presenter Tom Robinson who led us all in a sing along of ‘Glad to be Gay’ (rather appropriate considering the venue) and a song ‘No More Risky Business’

The show finally really ended with the most amazing cover of ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ (Simple Minds) and ‘Leeds United’ with every special guest and even the backstage crew dancing and singing on the stage. This was one hell of a party! My husband who has never experienced an AFP gig before was even surprised at how good it was, he was expecting a more cabaret feel, well this is punk cabaret and my goodness, is it fun to be part of, and AFP always makes every person in the room feel part of her extended family.

Review by Hayley Foster Da Silva

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