Ringmistress to a family circus, Amanda Fucking Palmer set up the big top in Sydney, Australia on September 14 at the Enmore Theatre, inviting us in to the goth-colour-pallette world of her cabaret with band Grand Theft Orchestra. And oh, what a spectacle.
Comedy rock duo Die Roten Punkte opened with a typically wonderful and joyously funny set that included Amanda and GTO member Chad Raines hitting cowbells and robot-dancing to “Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roboter (I Am a Lion)”. THEN Palmer dressed up in a 60s skirt suit just to escort out and introduce her GTO compatriot Jherek Bischoff as he performed two tracks (including one he was commissioned to write for the Kronos Quartet) looping guitar and ukelele. THEN Palmer came back out in a flowing robe to invite out the four young women behind the University of Sydney’s student newspaper Honi Soit, and to discuss their controversial and censored “vulvas” cover.
THEN it was Palmer’s for-real turn and….HOLY SHIT! LOOK OUT! SHE’S FLYING!
Within just a few moments of her return to stage – looking fiercely goth in silver leggings, corset and bra, blacked out eyes and white face – Palmer was airborne and in the audience. She was in them, on them, with them, as fans hugged and physically pressed their adoration into her. They lifted her above their heads as she railed through “Do It With A Rockstar”. Yep, that’s how you win hearts. Get in their faces.
Back on stage, corset unlaced from the surf and needing re-strapping, Palmer got tied back up and caned it through a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (also covering Pulp’s “Common People” later). And you’d not want to fuck with AFP, a convincing double-finger-thumb-gun-wielding maniac, during “The Killing Type,” either, oh no. Intense stuff.
She joked, she laughed, she entertained all banter, she ruled the room. And in that room? In the first row alone, was a person of small stature in a bowler, boys in lipstick, steam punks, kids clutching roses, a girl who’d travelled from Brisbane the day before, had Amanda sign her arm, then got it tattooed. An AFP show is an incredible microcosm of personal expression. Come see the freaks, folks, it’s a reunion at ringside. They’ve all run away to join…this. Wonderful.
And in keeping with the carnie family vibe, Palmer also invited up her former roommate Mali Sastri – from Boston band Jaggery – who happened to be down under at the same time of the tour.
Mali performed one stunning song (“7 Stone“) at the piano on AFP’s reques, before handing back the stage. “Gaga Palmer Madonna (A Polemic)” made a showing (after a show of hands that voted for the “social commentary” track versus “a long depressing song”), while “Astronaut (A Short History of Nearly Nothing)” sounded heroic. “From St Kilda to Fitzroy” and “Leeds United” had the Enmore floor swooning, then heaving.
“I Love You So Much” and “The Bed Song”, however, had one of us slipping inward, thinking of relationships now over. At that very moment, I realized it was a year ago AFP & GTO were in Vancouver and I could not attend because my marriage had literally collapsed in on itself. Amanda’s husband Neil Gaiman had tweeted me “hugs and so much love” that day. Today, almost exactly a year later, Neil tweeted again, this time asking me to deliver a hug to his wife, which I dispatched after the show. What a difference a year makes. You throw yourself out there and hope the ocean (at the end of the lane) delivers you back with the tide – which is exactly what happened during “Bottomfeeder” when Amanda jumped into and on the crowd again, this time resplendent in a long “crowd-surfing coat” made with an enormous, sheer train. Fans who were not actually holding her spread out the coat-tails like a sheet overtop them, and on the water of people she flowed.
After the 2hr+ set, a tired and croaky Amanda tried to hastily inhale some Thai food while chatting briefly with the small clutch of people backstage. Hugged and fed, and finished with her so many performances in one night, the ringmistress headed BACK out into the circus, to the merch table, where hundreds of remaining fans waited to meet with her, and where she promised them she’d be. In among them, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, waiting to share just one more second with one of the hardest-working women in show business, and she gave them all the seconds she had. \m/