Words by Tracey Moyle – Music Maven Events
Photography by Elizabeth Sharpe (AKA @ummagummamumma) – Full gallery HERE
Amanda Palmer – singer, songwriter, performer, motivational speaker, writer, entrepreneur, mother and more. She falls under many mantles. I personally would add healer of hearts to that list. The ability to touch another soul so deeply and have them feel they are not alone, they are understood, is the very reason, Palmer has one of the most faithful followings in the world of entertainment.
She started her musical journey as a part of the alternate theatrical Rock/Punk duo Dresden Dolls in 2000, however her growth as an independent artist has taken her on a journey of creativity and discovery. She has over 15,000 fans on Patreon. Fans she loves and appreciates, and she encourages anyone to self-fund and escape the corporate restraints that are put on them as creative artists.
Support Amanda Palmer; be a part of her community, and get access to special events, gatherings and content HERE
Palmer brought her ‘There Will Be No Intermission’ performance to the The Brisbane Powerhouse Friday and Saturday nights and it was refreshing, but not surprising, to hear both nights were completely different. It did make me wish I had been at both shows.
A friend, who had attended the Friday night show, told me Palmer had learnt a new Aussie term she thought was hilarious – “We’re not here to fuck spiders” and I think she got the gist, as the show began with her walking on stage to the applause of adoring fans, sitting down at her piano, and playing without pause.
She belted keys and declared, to the amusement of the crowd, “I’m on Smoko’, so
leave me alone. I’m on Smoko’ so leave me alone”. What Queenslander doesn’t
love Smoko by The Chats? But, hearing Amanda Palmer sing it live is something
special. A quick salute to the Aussie way, and we were taken into her version of
My Favourite Things, using this ‘Sound of Music’ cheery favourite to acknowledge
deeper topics; equality, the bush fires raging through out country, a climate in
crisis “Silver white icebergs that melt into springs…….. These are a few of my
favourite things” she finishes on a poignant note.
She came from behind the piano, although still on stage, it felt like she was
joining us. Like an old friend preparing to tell an attentive gathering of mates an
adventure she’s had. And that is how it began.
Palmer took us on a journey throughout the night relaying heartbreaking tales
of her life and stories of her learning the power of vulnerability. She played
music she’d written inspired by the accounts of her fans on Patreon and people
she’d met at shows. She offered us the deepest lesson’s she’d learned in life
through song and narrative. And showed us how to grow beyond our darkest
moments with compassion.
Sitting in the dark feeling my way around my pad and pen, (yes old school in a
theatre setting,) the preparation of writing a review for Amanda Palmer goes
out the window throughout the performance as I sit, completely mesmerised by the refreshingly honest, and admirably vulnerable woman on stage. I need to jump-start my brain to take notes every now and then.
On topic of her family and life, she shared her memories as a child growing up in a house constantly playing upbeat pop music of the 70’s and how it just never seemed to make sense to her. Then, through her brother – she discovered The Cure, and she “liked it! A lot!” This took us into her adored 2008 number Runs in the Family.
Palmer uses music as therapy as so many, if not all, artists do. From belting the keys, as a young girl, until the piano strings broke, (telling how she appreciated that her mother never complained every time they needed repair, because deep down she knew it was cheaper than therapy) to putting her most vulnerable moments in life on paper to transfer to song to share with her adoring fans. She took us on a very personal journey piecing together a common thread throughout the show.
She spoke about meeting her neighbour, a therapist named Anthony Martignetti, a soul completely different from her parents, who later becomes her mentor and best friend. He is responsible for introducing her to and her practicing ‘radical compassion’.
She tells of a time in her life, a darkest hour, when one Christmas when she was 19, her boyfriend, Grandmother, Grandfather and brother all died within a couple of months. A time she just stopped writing music. Her story continues conveyed with brutal honesty and vulnerability. To watch her speak is enthralling, to observe the audience equally so, as they hang on every word she says. Her stories continue with Palmer’s Kickstarter campaign in 2012, to escape the corporate hold on artist’s creativity. It was a huge success but not without its critics. There are always critics. However, there are always visionaries and if some of the greatest visionaries listened to critics, where would we be. The Kickstarter campaign built up a community of followers for Palmer that have, and I imagine always will, stuck by her throughout her journey.
She spoke of living right near the Boston Marathon bombing location and knowing, by one degree of separation, one of the boys who carried out the attack. Prompting her to question what darkness lays in the hearts and minds of people led by terrorism, practising her ‘radical compassion’ and wrote a poem to empathise with a kid bomber, creating a backlash she never expected.
She took the crowd back into song, performing Bigger on the Inside on her ukulele with an abundance of emotion, before returning to the tale of her early teens with her story of a young girl trying to act ‘sophisticated’, connecting the pieces slowly as she builds on her experiences. Musically she is a master at the complexities of life through to the simplistic things around us. It’s in her words her true expression has impact.
Her music doesn’t necessarily relay the light side of life. But it does reflect life. It’s in her ability to be vulnerable that she connects with people.
Taking a moment to apologise for not starting her show with her respects, she does so now, to the true owners of the land the Turrbal people.
Continuing with her thread, her story that links the whole tale together, she touches on the socially sensitive but relevant topic of abortion and begins another deeply personal telling of an event that shaped her into the woman she is today. Which led us into Oasis. A brutally honest song about the sensitive topics, date rape and abortion.
Her connecting with this topic runs deep. Her stories go from being very young and pregnant, to the time she was verbally attacked by American feminist journalists for creating a cheering song on a serious subject. Pondering the possibility that if the song had been played in a minor chord it would have been different. I guess this shows the critics actually don’t listen to the lyrics nor get the point. Quipping they suffer from ‘Irony deficiency.’ Apparently the British journalists loved the song.
Palmer’s story continues with meeting and marrying Author Neil Gaimen. and their pain at having to have a termination due to a medical condition. The decision to be vulnerable and not hide, but share her story made her realise that everyone had a story and once she was brave enough to share everyone felt the courage to do the same with her. A beautiful example of how vulnerability creates understanding.
Again, she sits at the piano, telling the crowd to think of the next song as a narrative from the point of view of several personas’ The Mother, The Artist and The Foetus, giving us a dark but hilariously different view Part Of Your World from The Little Mermaid. Palmer’s way of looking at life from every angle. The crowd responded laughing, participating, and singing along like a bunch of friends listening to an adored mate.
The night continued with stories of Anthony’s passing from cancer and the privilege felt to be there holding him as he died. Her view on death changed forever. This took us through to the song Machete, about Anthony’s paradoxical love of teaching compassion and vulnerability and his love of knives and guns. Her eventual journey into motherhood is her next musing, which I am sure every woman who is a mother in that room would have related to with laughter and tears. Palmer relays her experience with desperately dark humour in A Mothers Confession. To truly survive parenting you definitely need dark humour. Trust me. Everyone joined in with repetitive chorus at the end. “At least the baby didn’t die”. Words that silently run through the heads of most mothers, I’m sure.
A twenty minute intermission to grab a drink or got to the loo and we were all eagerly back in our seats. If you wondered how you’d get through a four-hour show, at the beginning of the night, you could now see how easily Palmer makes time irrelevant when she speaks. Starting off with Dresden Dolls favourite Coin Operated Boy brought the crowd to life once more, and like the true entertainer she is, had everyone completely engaged.
For the next hour and a half she spoke about parenting and the fear of having to watch ‘Frozen’ repetitively; her experience of speaking with inmates in Restorative Justice in prison in America and how it pushed her ‘radical compassion’ to new limits; how Patreon has given her freedom to do what she wants, to free herself from the corporate restraints of the music and entertainment industry; the backlash from media & social commentators on a misconstrued remark she made about Taylor Swift.
Leading us through a quick cheeky intro of Madonnas’s Like A Prayer, Palmer then played Drowning in the Sun, sharing more of her musical narrative genius.
Her recent performance at Mona Foma in Launceston was something unique. She had a confessional booth built and invited people to tell her their deepest stories from the bottom of their soul, if they so chose, and she would put them in a song for the event. Just another amazing way to delve into the hearts and minds of people and find out what makes them who they are.
The entertainment continued. There were times when the crowd cheered and participated, laughed and cried, and there were times during heart wrenching songs that you could hear a pin drop in the silent moments. Palmer’s ability to evoke such a roller coaster of emotion in her audience is a product of her willingness to expose her true self to the world, to show those who need it that they are not alone. That silence can sometimes be golden but other times can be dark and confusing. Knowing there is someone out there surviving the darkest moments life can create is an empowering and encouraging shift in your own life.
Palmer recalls her love of Midnight Oil as a young teenager. How she thought the music was so cool, only later as an adult understanding the power in the lyrics. Sharing her excitement of learning a new Aussie saying, “Suck it Up Buttercup” and after a sip of wine at the piano, we get a teaser of another rendition of Smoko but a passionate version of Beds are Burning followed with more crowd engagement.
Amanda spoke of how vulnerability has played a massive role in her ever-evolving life. How empowering it was seeing other artists prepared to bare their souls in their most raw form, such as Hannah Gatsby, Nick Cave and Bruce Springsteen, blown away by their own vulnerability.
Her story on the Irish vote to decriminalize abortion was again enthralling. A solemn silence had fallen over the theatre. It wasn’t that everyone was tired; you could feel the energy of the focus and intent to listen to every word and take it in. This led to her performance of Voicemail For Jill giving life to the story. She continued to share personal stories of finding empowerment after dealing with a miscarriage on one of the coldest nights of the year. And following up with her ironic humour with, Let It Go from the movie Frozen.
The music continued along with the stories of atonement and sharing her compassion and vulnerability with murderers when she participated in the prison project a (some of whom had been in prison for 50 years after committing crimes as youths) and how they showed her compassion and respect in return.
She finished the night with a nod to her fans on Patreon and the song she wrote for them after asking what they fear most. With The Ride taking us out, she sung about how we are all on this ride of life together:
“I want you to think of me sitting and singing beside you
I wish we could meet all the people behind us in line
The climb to the crest is less frightening with someone to clutch you
But isn’t it nice when we’re all afraid at the same time?”
If you are unfamiliar with Amanda Palmer do not be afraid to find her and have a listen to what she has to say. You might just find it changes the way you look at your life and it may even be good for your soul.
She continues her shows around Australia next in Canberra on 7 February, finishing up in Darwin on 29 February.
All dates and details can be found here