Amanda Fucking Palmer is an entertainer who creates art on her own terms. After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, she has used crowd funding platform Patreon to enable her to produce music and art without the pressure of creating a “thing”. With that in mind, her appearance at the Adelaide Festival was a refreshingly self-indulgent affair, for both herself and the audience.
Controversial Australian musician/ actor Brendan Maclean was Amanda’s special guest to warm up the audience and he delighted with songs about love and hugs (not drugs). His genuine vulnerability won over those in the audience who may not have known him much before.
Because it’s her show, Amanda Palmer then introduces another friend of hers playing at the nearby venue La Boheme. Mikelangelo, dressed in a dark rhinestone studded jacket, delivers an incredible rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” before heading back to his show.
Then it’s Amanda’s turn to come on stage. With a ukulele and a smile she starts to sing and the audience are hooked. But where is she now? Looking up we spot her straddling the first floor balcony, strumming away like an artist on vacation. This is her show. She’ll bend the rules and we love her even more for it.
This begins a journey of hope, sadness and revelation. Commenting on playing in Her Majesty’s Theatre, she launches into a song about the queens of modern music, “Gaga, Palmer, Madonna: A Polemic”. The message is simple, make music and enjoy it, don’t try to demean or analyze it too much.
Amanda explained that she was feeling a little unwell, but that didn’t diminish the performance one bit. There were moments of sublime stillness suddenly punctuated with bursts of raging intensity.
“The Thing About Things” was the first song where the tissues came out. A personal song about her gay grandfather, who was distant, aloof and cold and the ring she stole to remind her of him was cathartic.
Of course she couldn’t keep us sad for the whole show; there were plenty of uplifting happy songs to balance the mood. Having had a child late last year, she talked about a podcast she recorded in Melbourne with Missy Higgens, herself a recent mother, before launching into a rendition of “Cats in the Cradle”. She described her own feelings when her husband Neil Gaiman missed their baby’s first steps and his recreating of events later, The song was made even more poignant when she explained that the song was actually written by Harry Chapin’s wife.
Speaking to a couple of women in the foyer after the show, they said they had to step out after the song for a cigarette and a cry, which meant that they missed what to me was the highlight of the show. As “Laura” by Bat for Lashes started, Brendan Maclean emerged from the shadows dressed head to toe in a black lace wedding veil. Slowly he stripped down, revealing himself physically as well as emotionally. He explained how his recent video “House of Air” an “anthropological study of gay semiotics, taxonomies, and sexual behaviours’ has attracted a barrage of hate filled abuse.
Amanda Palmer’s two and a half hour performance was a journey of emotions. The final message was one of hope and love. Art’s Not Hard. If you have a ukulele you can make art. Love one another and have fun.
You will laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll go home and hug your loved ones and you’ll never forget the time you spent “An Evening With Amanda Palmer”.
Review by John Goodridge