Amanda Palmer hits Adelaide for one evening only
Stephen A Russell speaks with the queen of punk cabaret about her new show, An Evening with Amanda Palmer, which is playing at Adelaide Fringe.
When singer-songwriter, author and performance artist Amanda Palmer takes to the stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre during Adelaide Fringe, she’ll be two months into an almost three-month tour of Australia.
A prolific solo artist as well as one half of The Dresden Dolls “Brechtian punk cabaret,” she’ll see in 2017 at Queensland’s Woodford Folk Festival before heading to Melbourne’s Gasometer Hotel, the Sydney Opera House and Hobart’s MONA. When we speak on the phone mid-December 2016, she’s grabbing a quick timeout before performing in Key West, Florida, revealing she savours her time down under.
“There’s something about the people and the way my friends down there function and make art,” Palmer says. “I just feel so incredibly happy the minute I get off that plane away from America and, in all fairness, usually it’s winter here.”
In truth, Palmer’s a little conflicted about the timing of her escape this year, given the monumental events of the last few months Stateside and the upcoming inauguration of President Donald Trump. “Oh my god, I actually feel genuinely guilty that I’m not going to be in Washington on January 20th when all of my other friends, musicians, writers and artists are going to be marching. I feel like I’m abandoning my compatriots to do the hard work of making sure that millions and millions of people are raising their collective voices against this terrible, terrible man.”
His ascendancy has Palmer feeling like she’s slipped into some strange new reality, compounded by the blissful arrival of her son Anthony, with husband and author Neil Gaiman, in September 2015. “I wake up and I look at this baby and I can’t believe he exists, so maybe this is like the giant karmic payback in the movie of my life, that we get Donald Trump.
“It’s one of the most horrifying things to have happened in our adult lives, and yet it may wind up being the most inspiring. And that’s frightening in itself, but, as an artist, it can be so easy to feel unnecessary. And then, at a moment like this, you find yourself thinking, ‘What have I learned about what it is that I do and can do for other people that can help right now?’”
An optimist, Palmer says now is the time to reach out to and support one another.
“I really hope as a collective bunch of human beings, this is the moment in which we define ourselves as actually enlightened, compassionate, loving, entities instead of fearful, angry, judgemental monsters. Hopefully this challenges us to rise up and be our best selves as artists, as partners, as parents, as journalists, musicians, whatever it is that you do. Oh my god, the dress rehearsal is over. You actually really are going to have to love that person next to you or we are all fucked. It makes it very real, very fast.”
Adept at using the internet age’s various platforms to reach out to her fans, despite the occasionally high cost of an online presence for an outspoken artist, it’s only when performing live, like the upcoming Adelaide Festival appearance An Evening with Amanda Palmer, that she feels truly connected.
“In a very secular age, I mean 99.9 per cent of my friends don’t go to church, they go to art, they go to music, they use that as a point of communion with the other people in their lives, and so our job as the people who happen to have wound up on stage is about a lot more than just playing songs we’ve written, it’s about functioning as a meeting point for whatever the thing that isn’t the internet is.”
Without art, there’s no point, she says.
“I didn’t necessarily know that when I was 12 years old and first looked at Madonna and Prince and Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper and realised that I wanted to do whatever it is that they did, but my punk and folk heroes told me an important and very different story about why we make music for each other.
“Something that actually has a lot less to do with ego and a lot more to do with contributing to this giant mess that we’re all making together. And I love the job.”
An Evening with Amanda Palmer, February 24 & 25, Her Majesty's Theatre, adelaidefringe.com.au
(Image Amanda Palmer. Photo: Shervin Lainez)