Palmer adds snap and crackle to Pops
Even Keith Lockhart seemed at a loss for words to give a proper name to what was about to take place. “Welcome to the Boston Pops and Amanda Palmer’s New Year’s Eve moment together,’’ he said as he took the Symphony Hall stage Thursday night. It wasn’t the first time that the Dresden Dolls singer has performed with the Pops, and with its combination of a wide-open palette and sense of frisky unpredictability, it would be a shame if it were the last.
Palmer’s influence was obvious from the performance art roaming the halls, the invocation for the new year by an unbilled Neil Gaiman, and the scrapes, wheezes, and beatboxing that provided some of the strangest dinner music imaginable in the main hall. After a Pops set - combining “The Empire Strikes Back,’’ Duke Ellington, and Björk, just as nature intended - chosen by her fans, Palmer herself stalked around the audience (crowded by a growing number of musicians) singing the lurching, taunting tango “Missed Me.’’
The Pops were at their best, giving every indication of having worked closely with Palmer on the arrangements, rather than simply layering an orchestra on top of her act. “Astronaut’’ was appropriately overpowering, sounding as though Palmer was falling into a hole that just kept getting bigger, and “Coin-Operated Boy’’ was magnificently chaotic, at least during the parts where Lockhart could keep up with her.
Palmer reciprocated, throwing herself into Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with a hellbent attack seemingly borrowed from “Girl Anachronism.’’ When a ringing cellphone interrupted her midway through, she dragged the schnook to the piano in front of a peeved-looking Lockhart and a tsk-tsking crowd. But he picked up on the piece with astonishing speed, at which point she dramatically tore off his outfit to reveal the tuxedo underneath, and the two - Palmer and pianist Lance Horne - fumbled over each other at the keyboard as they hurtled toward the rapturous finish.
It seemed the only place Palmer and the Pops fell short was on the countdown to 2010, which may have preceded midnight by a few minutes. By then, though, nobody was willing to check their phones to be sure.