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Amanda Palmer’s There Will Be No Intermission challenged expectations by combining the format of a stand-up tragedy with songs spanning her career. It was not my first concert, but it was certainly the most interesting I’ve attended.
Beginning with a rendition of ‘In My Mind’, Palmer related to us the story of a terminally ill woman she had met about a week prior. The audience was silent as she told us about the family she met, and the person in question, before stopping at the last verse. A verse which she admitted, probably wasn’t appropriate to be singing to a woman with cancer, the admission broke any unease. Laughter from the crowd followed, which set the tone for the rest of the show, darkness punctuated with light.
Inspired by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, (some “card-carrying goth” Palmer was adamant she didn’t like in her youth), the show eschews the typical two-hour-long format for something much more personal, playing only fifteen songs. She starts at the beginning, with her teenage years of angry piano playing and dubious dating and finishes over four hours later with an encore of ‘The Ride’.
The show whisked through life’s pivotal moments, with usually taboo themes taking the spotlight. She discussed her experiences with abuse, murder, death, abortion and miscarriage; yet does not shy away from the good. Taking the stance of “radical compassion”, she opens up about the different people she’s dared to love, those who’ve stayed by her side, those she lost on her way, and those that are relatively new to the world.
The songs performed throughout the show were never out of place. It was astounding how expertly Palmer transitioned from anecdote to song, such as one about a close friend who had died of cancer into ‘Machete’. There were interesting choices throughout the set, the first part (because there was an intermission) contained ‘Part of Your World’ from The Little Mermaid, although performed in such a way as to not feel out of place.
Halfway through the performance, the audience was informed that we were about to have “the world’s shortest intermission” at only 12 minutes. A few people dared to run off for a smoke, or a quick toilet break, but most opted to either remain seated or stretch before the second act.
The second act opens with ‘Coin-Operated Boy’ from her days as a Dresden Doll, this sent a wave of hesitant chuckles through the crowd, possibly hoping for a reunion. However, it also started with a warning: the second half is darker than the first.
Anecdotes of compassion permeated this act. We heard stories of maximum-security prisons, the fallout of the Boston bombing, abortion and miscarriage. The piano-work displayed during ‘Drowning in the Sound’ ensured that there was complete silence from the crowd, while during ‘A Mother’s Confession’, Palmer encouraged the audience to sing “as loud as [they could]” for the refrain. The last song of the second half punctuated a particularly poignant story about Palmer’s own experience with miscarriage, much to the surprise of everyone present, it was an overpowering rendition of ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen.
Palmer came back to the stage not long after leaving. For her encore, she performed ‘The Ride’, a song which managed to encapsulate the entire four-hour experience and distil it into a something so much more. There Will Be No Intermission refused to pull punches, it refused to hold your hand. “If you can, you must” was the philosophy Palmer throughout the show, and she succeeded in telling us what she could about her life, her trials, her wins and her losses.