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MUSIC REVIEW

Amanda Palmer is alive!

By James Reed
Globe Staff / November 26, 2008
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As much as her music and aesthetic, a big part of Amanda Palmer's appeal is how close she allows - encourages, even - her fans to get. She leans over and hugs and kisses them from the stage. She asks them to send a text message to get on her mailing list. She greets them and autographs stuff after her shows.

In return, they've supported her unconditionally, first as a member of the Dresden Dolls and now as a solo artist. They indulge her every whim, from her theatrical turn in "The Onion Cellar" to her recent performances with the Boston Pops. Palmer is quick to admit she has the best fans she could imagine.

More than that, though, Palmer has the luxury of preaching to the choir, a freedom that's given her a fearlessness rare in a performer who's only 32. Especially in her hometown, few people come to Palmer's shows to discover her. They come because they love what she does and want to be a part of it. (Why else would you put on striped leggings and face paint on a weeknight, right?)

So at the Paradise Rock Club on Monday, the first of two nights there, Palmer had her usual free rein to do and say whatever she wanted, from songs new and old to an "Ask Amanda" segment to a live auction that fetched $790 for an electric guitar signed by Palmer.

Riffing on the cryptic title of her new solo album, "Who Killed Amanda Palmer," the show began with a bit of melodrama. Palmer's mother came onstage to ham it up about her daughter's tragic fate - "She's not only dead; someone murdered her!" (ah, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in the Palmer family) - and then led the crowd in four verses of a baleful hymn to mourn Palmer's imaginary passing.

Suddenly Palmer, shrouded in a veil, pawed her way through the audience and was eventually hoisted on stage by members of the Danger Ensemble, her theatrical backup troupe. The woman knows how to make a grand entrance.

Palmer ripped right into "Astronaut," a brutal piano pounder from the new album. Her voice, which in recent performances had sounded brittle and a little battered, has regained some of its elasticity, especially on the ballads "Ampersand" and "Blake Says."

A wistful cover of Momus's "I Want You, But I Don't Need You" lightened the mood, only to be darkened by the stark "Strength Through Music," written about the Columbine school shootings, and "Slide," a creepy Dresden Dolls lullaby seemingly about a little girl being abducted from a playground.

Restraint isn't Palmer's strong suit, and she doesn't hold back, even when less might be more. After two-plus hours of song and dance (and a fun, if odd, send-off with Palmer and company lip-synching Rihanna's "Umbrella"), the show had hit its zenith. But not in Palmer's mind. She returned for two encores with her opening bands (the Builders and the Butchers and Vermillion Lies) for a blowsy, all-together-now rendition of her own "Leeds United" and a silly cover of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer."

Finally, this is how Palmer wanted to go out: in a shower of confetti as she leaned back on the piano bench and took in the adulation, now and forever the life of her own party.

AMANDA PALMER

At: Paradise Rock Club, Monday

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