Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra at the Phoenix, Toronto

Having just wrapped up the European leg of her Theatre is Evil tour, and still recovering from bronchitis, Amanda Palmer put on a lavishly energetic, masterful rock show for an enthusiastic crowd at the Phoenix Concert Theatre last night.

Driven by the confident and charismatic singer, who was clearly in her element, the show felt both like a big hot glam punk performance and an intimate house party.

Introducing her first opening act – bass player Jherek Bischoff’s solo project – in a kimono, and doing a warm-up dance with the second, Amanda chatted affably with the audience, spoke warmly of her band members “who are not only great musicians but also beautiful people,” and complimented Toronto and “that place with the donuts and the coffee,” which the band had visited “at least three times” in the one day they’ve been in the city.

Jherek Bischoff, Amanda Palmer, The Simple Pleasure stretching arms up

Amanda Palmer warming up for “crancing” with the The Simple Pleasure.

She also shared proudly the fact that, minutes before the show, Trent Reznor tweeted a laconic compliment to her just-released “Do It with a Rockstar” video (NSFW).

The all-white clad Grand Theft Orchestra launched into the main part of the show with the instrumental “Grand Theft Intermission”, backed up by a string section enlisted from local Toronto violinists and cellists – a customary invitation Amanda extends to local musicians on every stop of her tour. One of the violinists set the record last night for the youngest person to play with GTO onstage, at 15 years old.

Three violinists in background, Amanda Palmer on keyboard on stage

Local Toronto violinists backing up AFP & GTO onstage at the Phoenix

With hit singles from the new record, Theatre is Evil, and older songs both from AFP’s first solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? and her former band The Dresden Dolls, there was a satisfying musical variety of hard rock, pop rock and ballads in the set list. Visually stunning crowd surf performance during “Bottomfeeder” (see gorgeous pictures of it from the NYC show here) and slapstick band member changeover routine during “Missed Me” made for great entertainment. Often biting, but always thoughtful lyrics that dig deep under the surfaces of relationships made for an emotional experience.

intense AFP & GTO performance

Coordinating many components of fan participation – which is an integral part of her live shows – via Twitter, AFP asked those coming last night to bring some black body paint. This turned out to be part of a plan to make a surprise human birthday card for Amanda’s husband, the fantasy author Neil Gaiman.

Amanda Palmer & fans spelling out a birthday greeting for Neil Gaiman in body paint onstage at the Phoenix

“PY B-DAY, NEIL!” Hapless birthday greeting for Neil Gaiman

The resulting tableau, staged fairly late into the show, spelled “PY B-DAY, NEIL!” on her thrilled young fans’ bare torsos, with apologies arriving via Twitter after the show from the letters H-A-P, who were held up helping fellow fainting fans.

For the encore, Amanda and the band ascended to the balcony for an acoustic reprise of “Want It Back”, sang through a megaphone and illuminated from the floor below by flashlights in the audience.

Thanking Toronto for being one of the best crowds she’s had on this tour, her bronchitis worsening, AFP departed swiftly after the show for her next tour destination – Chicago.

Michael McQuilken, Jherek Bischoff, Chad Raines, Amanda Palmer on stage at the end of the show

Curtain call

Gallery of photos from the show:

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