Thank goodness the good old fashioned “The Show must go on” school of thought isn’t dead. Otherwise this rather fantastic gig in Sheffield Academy’s upstairs room may never have happened. Sporting a plaster cast on her right foot after having said foot run over by a car in Belfast barely one gig into her European tour, Amanda Palmer has to be carried on stage and plonked on her piano stool. Add that to the rumours that her band, the Brechtian punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, may be no more, and it’s perhaps understandable that tonight’s set starts off in somewhat sombre mood. Dressed in a corset, black bra and a flowing skirt and with the word 'Yes' written on her chest, Amanda casts (sorry!) a downbeat mood over proceedings. Opening with the trio of 'Astronaut', 'Ampersand' and 'Blake Says' from her debut solo album 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer', her voice drifts hauntingly over the tightly packed room.

Things soon move up a gear as Amanda starts to wow the very polite and devoted crowd who hang on her every word. Dolls favourites 'Mrs O' and 'Backstabber' provoke mass sing-a-longs from the crowd as she hammers away at the keys her trademark Kurt Weill piano. Her performance is also punctuated with regular appearances from Australian performance art troupe the Danger Ensemble. There’s a particularly poignant moment as the troupe, dressed in school uniforms, walk around the stage in a corpse-like trance during a particularly powerful rendition of 'Strength Through Music', a song written about the Columbine school shootings.

The now traditional 'Ask Amanda' section brings some light relief as she draws audience questions from a box. We find out she prefers the “wanky art-school pretentiousness of Blur to Oasis”, she turns the “who did you have your most passionate ever kiss with ?” question round to her “first ever kiss” (Brad in the closet at high school for the record) and we hear the very funny story about how, on a drunken dare from her road crew, she stripped naked, ran onstage at Glastonbury and tried to kiss Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst!

Other highlights in a thoroughly entertaining, intense and utterly compelling set include the tongue-in-cheek 'I Google You' (a song co-written with author Neil Gaiman) and Dolls favourite 'Half Jack' with its long drawn out introduction featuring violinist Lyndon Chester and cellist Zoe Keating -possibly one of the most extraordinary things you’ll hear at a live gig this year. And, of course her most famous Dolls song, the is-it-about-vibrators-or-not 'Coin Operated Boy', along with its naughty lyrical tweaks (“he can even fuck me in the ass”).

The most notable absentee from the set list is the standout track from her debut solo album, 'Leeds United'. Whether Amanda tailors the set list to appease the locals (given Sheffield’s rivalry with their neighbours up the M1) is perhaps open to conjecture. She finishes the “start it low-key and build it up” set with a hilarious version of Rihanna's 'Umbrella' where the Danger Ensemble proffer brollies while Amanda plucks away on a ukulele. And there’s still time to beat the venue’s (ridiculous) 10 p.m. curfew with an encore which sees support act Jason Webley accompany Palmer on an acoustic version of Bon Jovi's 'Living on a Prayer'. If only all live gigs were as entertaining as this.

After the show Amanda holds court from a bench at a bus stop outside the venue – speaking to fans, signing everything that’s placed in front of her and having her picture taken. Devotion to the cause beyond the call of duty. The Dresden Dolls may (or may not?) be dead. Long live Amanda Palmer!

The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Denzil Watson for Pennyblackmusic

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