Many familiar faces – the Amanda Palmer Clan is a family, you see – queued early for good seats. A chap named Tyler handed out free comics. Another person handed out information about his friend’s book. The local, Balkan marching band, Orkestar Šlivovica, reprised the same role as last year, oom-pah-pahing up the street, entertaining waiting fans and confounding locals. Inside, they played as folks got settle. Or rather, didn’t. Because in the run up to the 9pm start, anyone who could was ballroom dancing in the stage left aisles. It’s what you do before an Amanda Palmer show, don’t you know.
But then, Amanda, wearing a comfy silk nightgown and chemise slipped onto the stage, and all cheered. Not just for her. Not just because she brought back her TED superstar friends to the Vogue Theatre (which once again graciously lent its space for this charity gig supporting the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society). And not just for the fact that her equal-hero husband, author Neil Gaiman, was also in the wings.
No, all cheered loud because today was the day that Amanda Palmer had announced that she was 13 weeks pregnant. She did it on Twitter and Instagram with a shadowy picture taken by Neil. The room swelled as she patted her belly. Joy.
From the poignant introduction made by TED fellow and Sri Lankan opera singer Tharanga Goonetilleke, and her subsequent, remarkable voice, to Palmer’s Evelyn Evelyn cohort Jason Webley emphatically singing about how he wants a giraffe, to humanitarian entrepreneur Dan Pallotta not speaking, but sharing folk songs about unions, to Faroe Islander songsmith Teitur making his first-ever appearance in Vancouver, to 23-year-old Pakistani musical prodigy Usman Riaz playing strange wonders on the neck of his guitar, before knocking out a similar beauty on a grand piano…. there was joy.
There was TED power poser Amy Cuddy joining Palmer in a song, clearly thrilled to once again share a stage with her hero and telling a sweet story about how she once corrected Palmer when she got her own lyrics wrong. There was US magician and New York Times crossword puzzle-maker David Kwong puzzling us, and NYC poet Sarah Kay lulling us with tales of Montauk. And there was a bearded and beaming Neil Gaiman, smiling at his wife, as she touched his face or goofed off around him. He read the short story “October” about a genie who likes hummus (and it’s also about love), and, in a moment of heart swells and pride, he read a “poem I’ve never read before and likely will ever again”, “A Poem for An Unborn Child”. With every word, the room sagged and sighed and fell into each other a little closer. Joy.
And oh! Such giddiness when, back for a second year, came the ASTRONAUT. Commander Christopher Hadfield, space superstar and rock n’ roller, once again graced us with two songs, including his now-infamous “Space Oddity” cover. (“Can you do the countdown?” he asked. “Good! Nobody clapped when I was in space.”) He also sat next to Palmer as he she serenaded him fiercely with “Astronaut”, his eyes intense and humbled.
So. Amanda Palmer did it once again. Three-and-a-half hours of free-form fun, of music and magic, of poems and pianos, of everyone in the room secretly wishing they’d brought booties for the baby right then and there to toss up on stage, and all getting a chance to experience just some of the wonder of TED without the hefty price tag. And we even helped the hungry. So, hey, Amanda Palmer, thanks for bringing yourself, your baby, your husband, your friends and so much joy. \m/
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