Live Reviews

  Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra, Bitter Ruin. the Horndog Brass Band live at The Arches in Glasgow

Never been to The Arches before. Thought I'd mention that just in case it has some relevance. Anyway, as a venue is has character, subterranean rumbling from the trains passing overhead and a lighting guy with a sense of humour.  Watch in amusement as a guy – no doubt in possession of some (ahem…) "cough sweeties" for the weekend - finds himself under the unflinching gaze of the only spotlight in the room. He slinks off in search of nearest shadow.

Meanwhile under one of the actual arches were the Horndog Brass Band. The stage obviously being insufficiently big to hold them, they did the proximity combat thing and performed amongst the crowd unleashing maximum brass power directly at their dancing feet. That's not all, for this Edinburgh horn arsenal then went into pied piper mode and led a Glasgow audience to the bar where they duly performed the rest of their set.
On the actual stage next were Brighton band Bitter Ruin. Now, I've always wondered about the appeal of twisted murder ballads and obsessional tales of twisted relationships but no longer. Ben Richards's angular yet melodic acoustic guitar proved the perfect complement to the alternately theatrical and sensual voice of Georgia Train and all was suddenly clear. It was one of those moments when you realise that some people –and I mean Bitter Ruin – are born to be on a stage.

Talking of being born to be on a stage, it was time for the main attraction. The faithful had already gathered with gifts of frankincense and shiny things. They were all there – the cool and the chic, the louche and the light of foot– to worship at Amanda Palmer's feet. Not that I looked at her feet of course but I am sure that, like the rest of her, they were worthy of worship. Oh, and there were a couple of guys in cowboy hats but, it being the weekend, they were probably on the lam from a Village People tribute band.

May she be blessed though, for Amanda Palmer delivered the goods. Over the course of set that stretched out to Bruce Springsteen duration, she and her most capable Grand Theft Orchestra cascaded musical excellence over a sea of both her own controversial songs and a bizarrely appropriate selection of covers and - here's value for money - the best Jim Kerr impersonation I have ever seen. This being Amanda Palmer, a mere run through of her best known songs was just not on the cards with a belly dance by the most wondrous Super Kate providing both an aesthetic diversion and a potential opportunity to gain my first restraining order. Well, my third but you get the point.

Other artistes might sneak in a new song or two into their set but not Ms Palmer who sledgehammered a bundle in after coercing the audience into the kind of nightmarish session of dance aerobics that few would ever dare to demand and, while her new songs proved to be a gear shifting change of pace, they sounded like she had been performing them for years.

The finale was, of course, big and followed by an extended encore where she entertained requests before an even bigger, all hands to the stage bringing down the walls of Jericho grand finale. The faithful duly left sated by what they had experienced for they had come to worship and they had not been disappointed. Maybe organised religion could learn from Amanda Palmer?

Seriously though, I would be hard pressed to name any musician who works harder for your money than Amanda Palmer and the fact that she follows her own path is all the more commendable. I, too, am now a believer.

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