Amanda Palmer - She's Not Here To Fuck Spiders
Music can do a lot of things. It conjures emotion from deep within. It brings an ability to feel. To express your sentiments when you don’t have the words yourself. But most importantly, it helps to heal. But we’ll get into that later.
In a country where we have dwindling arts funding, self-serving politicians and overwhelming evidence of ‘keyboard warriors’ voicing their opinion, that while they are entitled to, they are not always necessarily welcome, or for that matter, required, its tonight’s performance by Amanda Palmer at Brisbane Powerhouse that has stirred emotion from deep within the congregation. I will try and summarize what I got to witness, but bear with me, it was a lot to take in.
As we take our seats, Tori Amos’ ‘Cornflake Girl’ rings through the PA system and before we know it, Amanda is walking throughout the crowd, serenading us with nothing but that unmistakable voice and a ukulele. First and foremost, Palmer acknowledges the true owners of the land and thanks them. This is something you never see from the bigger artists that are here to perform their show, leave stage and do it again the next night. Wash, rinse, repeat. The evidence of an artist burnt out from tour life and performing the same scripted show is strong tonight. The crowd is given an option for tonight’s show, a “Red Pill/Blue Pill” situation. We can go with the scripted, safe show, or, throw caution to the wind, fuck it all and have an unbridled, anarchic show filled with requests and stories. The vote is held in visual darkness, eyes closed and we choose……..ANARCHY!!!! (somewhat ironic casting a ‘vote’ for anarchy, right?)
‘There Will Be No Intermission’ is a raw and powerful album. No holds barred, balls to the wall emotion. There are no hidden meanings here. If you think the song is about abortion, it is. If you think it’s about feelings of parental inadequacy, it is. Amanda is known for this style, and while it has been met with backlash in the past, its exactly what is needed within the music industry. Art is not supposed to be easily digested. It’s supposed to make you think, to feel, to relate on a completely different plane. Its not an easy feat to achieve, but Amanda is an artist that can do all this, bringing her own relatable experiences to into the light and wearing every bit of emotion on her sleeve.
The requested set list covers everything that you’d hope (that’s kind of what you get when you get die hard fans in one room and ask them). Giving insight into each song, this evenings performance feels intimate and special. Taking questions from the audience covering everything from the well-being of her partner and child, through to what her writing process was on songs such as ‘Half Jack’. It’s not often you get to see this side of an artist, but when you do, it brings a whole new level of brilliance to their artworks. The story that accompanies ‘Oasis’ is honest and confronting but being a song about date rape and abortion is bound to be. It’s this style that sets Amanda Palmer apart from the rest, what you see and hear is what you get. No bullshit, raw honesty.
Witnessing a song such as ‘Drowning in the Sound’ in a live setting and the passion that goes with it has left me speechless. From an artist’s perspective and from someone that tries to use words to convey an experience is a true challenge. There is nothing that I could say that would form imagery in your mind of what I saw and I’m sure no two people in the theatre had the same interpretation. From a photographers perspective, the lighting that was used just for this song (the lighting was amazing all night FYI), was brilliantly executed. In every moment of the song, while trying to soak it in, I found myself longing to have my DSLR in my hands to capture every bit of emotion and passion that something as simple as perfectly timed lighting could assist in expressing. At every single change of illumination, I wanted to capture the unequivocal desire for the music that Palmer seemed to emit from her person. It was certainly something that is going to take a lot to better from future artists I view.
The second half of the show is as brilliant as the first, if not more so. ‘Coin Operated Boy’ is a song that I’ve wanted to see live for what seems an eternity and tonight seeing it performed solo on a grand piano makes it even better. With everything that has been happening in Australia, Palmer makes sure to address pertinent issues. Bush fires, arts funding cuts, Invasion Day, abortion, feelings of artistic inadequacy in a world full of people ‘making a difference’. To me, art in any form is as important as any other career, as what is a life unless its one filled with passion that is invoked by the many forms of art that surround us daily.
As we wade toward the end of the show, ‘A Mothers Confession’, strikes a particular chord within me (yes, I know, I’m a male, but I’m still a parent) as I often struggle with feeling like I’m doing a good job within said role. This song brings a tear to my eye and helps me to get through those tough moments associated with parenthood (thank you Amanda). A truly moving rendition of Midnight Oil’s ‘Truganini’ helps to set the scene and emotion needed to convey the story and song that was penned in a couple of days following Amanda’s “confessional” at Tasmanian arts festival MONA FOMA. Highlighting what can only be described as a horrific stain upon our nation, Palmer used the stories from within the makeshift confession booth to write a song that focuses on the plight of our nations first people and the dismal literacy rate within Tasmania. These are issues that were never taught in mainland schools, never had light shed on them and pushed to the back to be forgotten. Its brilliant that a foreign artist can bring this information to the masses, but harrowingly unfortunate that we were never taught about the true nature of our nation’s history.
There’s a moment in every parent’s life where you must make a sacrifice. Whether it be financially, ethically or mentally, you do what needs to be done to keep that tiny human satisfied. The final song of this massive, almost 5-hour long show displays this brilliantly. As the piano rings out a familiar, yet disturbing tune, every person within Brisbane Powerhouse, laughs, cringes and sympathizes with Palmer as that all too familiar song of ‘Let It Go’ from the Frozen soundtrack penetrates every eardrum in the room that saved her sanity on a long haul flight with her son Ash. This is what parenting looks like, sacrifice for sanity. Plain and simple.
Tonight’s performance has been emotional. The intimacy of such an artist making it feel like they’re talking directly to you with every word is an amazing experience. I came to this show to escape reality, to get lost in the music. What I didn’t expect was to be engaged in such an amazing performance that stirred such emotion that I truly wanted to spend the money to go to the second Brisbane show. This was a show for the senses, it engaged me on an emotional level but also the visual imagery of the flawless lighting tech was awe-inspiring. I could spend an eternity trying to explain this show to you all, but the only true way to do so is simply to recommend getting to an Amanda Palmer performance as soon as possible. THIS is art in it truest form. Raw, unbridled, uncaged emotion. Amanda, we thank you for allowing us to join you for this performance.