At the Vogue Theatre on Sunday, November 5
Well, no one can suggest that Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman didn’t give the people their money’s worth on a crisp fall night at the Vogue. The Boston-bred cabaret-pop oddball and the English cult author could have been forgiven for cutting things short. It’s not like they’d spent a lazy Sunday lounging in bed while catching up on Coronation Street reruns.
From one of the countless stories she told over the course of the evening, Palmer flew in from the States, hopped in a cab, and then promptly headed to John Fluevog Shoe Design in Gastown. With Gaiman by her side, she entertained a lucky crowd of fans with her ukulele. Evidently not one for downtime, she then made her way over to Occupy Vancouver for a quick set, once again busting out the instrument favoured by nine out of 10 Hawaiians.
If the dynamic husband-and-wife team was tuckered out from all the running around town, you wouldn’t have known it at the Vogue, which was so sold-out that finding a seat was a thankless task. Gaiman and Palmer turned in an epic three-hour performance, the evening including song, dance, poetry readings, question-and-answer sessions, short stories, long stories, and plenty of smooching.
Thanks to props on loan from Bard on the Beach, the stage looked amazing. There were brown wicker chairs, glowing crystal balls, wooden penguins, vintage cameras on tripods, dogs on wheels, giant ferns, and boudoir screens, the whole effect like an eccentric rumpus room from the 1920s.
Things started out with the keyboard-playing Palmer and a rumpled-looking Gaiman duetting on a ribald version of “Makin’ Whoopee”. The night ended—after countless big kisses and doe-eyed pronouncements of “I love you”—with Palmer acknowledging that the two had just given a clinic in PDA.
“You guys have gotten 16 times more lovey-dovey bullshit than any other city on the tour,” she said with a grin.
Both Palmer and Gaiman were given anti-heroes welcomes, half the audience seemingly there for the music, the other for the literary component. Every shout of “I love you, Neil” was followed a second later by “We love you, Amanda”.
Once the early shout-outs of undying affection were out of the way, it was down to business. Palmer—in an awesomely billowing, ink-stained white dress—sat enraptured at her piano, sipping red wine while Gaiman read poems and stories about love, being snubbed at christenings, and working as a street-performer statue with eyes for a certain flame-haired chanteuse from America.
Gaiman would gaze lovingly at his other half while she traded the piano for the ukulele and serenaded him with numbers like the Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror”.
Sometimes you’d get only one of them, Palmer sitting at the keys and converting the Gaiman fans with vaudeville-flavoured gold like “Runs in the Family” and “I Want You, But I Don’t Need You”. Gaiman got one of the biggest cheers of the night with a short story populated by Day-Glo—bubble inventors, stuffed-muffin magnates, and glowing spaceships landing on Earth to swallow up whole city blocks.
Whether they were flying solo or working as a team, both managed the seemingly impossible feat of keeping Vancouver enraptured for their marathon. The Vogue was as packed when they left—the audience leaping to its feet for a spontaneous standing O—as it was at the start of the night.
As highlights went, there were too many to count. Palmer acknowledging the overdose death of a young woman at Occupy Vancouver, and then doing an almost-whispered version of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” in her memory, probably topped the list. No less powerful was her closing performance of her new single “Ukulele Anthem”, in which she made a good case that the world would be a better place if we all learned to play the instrument that made Tiny Tim famous.
The night ended with Palmer and Gaiman standing hand in hand, and, after another smooch, announcing that they’d be hanging out in the lobby, posing for pictures and signing as many autographs as they were asked to.
The best sign that Vancouver had just seen something wonderful and amazing? When, after three hours, Palmer announced that she and her spouse had to go, the crowd’s members howled “Noooooooooooooo.”
This led her to shoot back with “Dudes—it’s 11:30.” Not only that, Vancouver had totally got its money’s worth.
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