Amanda Palmer’s voice was raw, earthy and emotive, but Erin Hutchinson found it was her message that was most powerful.
Review: Amanda Palmer, There Will Be No Intermission ·
Perth Concert Hall, 22 February 2020 ·
Review by Erin Hutchinson ·
The three concerts at the Perth Festival’s Kabarett Haus series curated by Meow Meow were celebrations of the solo voice. However the final show, There Will Be No Intermission wasn’t what was expected. Amanda Palmer could have done a “normal” show – 90 minutes of music, enjoy yourself and go home. Instead, she offered up her life in an intimate, raw exchange of human experience.
The American singer/songwriter made an irresistible storyteller. Making the most of the concert hall’s Steinway piano, she wound through tales of loss and strength with just the right amount of levity. As she opened up about risky choices and the traumatic experiences thrown at us in this wild ride called life, it brought the audience to both tears and laughter. Luckily, she was selling promotional handkerchiefs in the foyer at the (yes there was one) intermission.
Bruce McKinven’s stage design and cabaret tables encouraged audience engagement, and what was loud and glitzy for Meow Meow’s Pandemonium served to emphasise the punk profundity for Amanda Palmer. Peter Rubie managed to work in a disco ball and some epic rock lighting, but in quieter moments the chandelier and dropped single lights glistened like raindrops against a cloudy scrim.
Palmer had plenty to say, taking her cues from feminist Madeline Albright who said, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent”. Opening with her own version of “My Favourite Things”, she articulated some of the problems in our society and the state of our world. Amongst the heavy stuff she tackled depression, drug abuse, sexual abuse, death, motherhood, miscarriage and abortion. Some Disney tunes lightened the mood and of course, the crowd pleaser from her Dresden Dolls repertoire, “Coin Operated Boy”.
Her voice, like her stories, was raw, earthy and emotive, but it was her message that was most powerful. A great cover of Midnight Oil’s “The Beds Are Burning” encapsulated her feelings about current events, while her original number, “Suck It Up, Buttercup” written at Mona Foma in Launceston this year, was a lament for the horrors (both individual and national) that surround our past.
What got me was how relevant and touching her stories were, and how appropriate to be talking about them now. In a time of #MeToo, where more and more people are deciding that [add any topic of controversy here] has to be discussed and we have to do something about it – the strength of humanity, and of women, is vast and the opportunity for compassion is enormous.
Abortion, one of Palmer’s main return points, was an eye opener. Palmer had the audience raise their hands if they/a friend/a relative had chosen abortion, and the amount was overwhelming. Palmer’s discussion of her choices, along with her support of local WA “safe access zones” emphasised how far we still have to go with body rights. Not just that, but acceptance and care of those who go through it.
While it all sounds a bit gloomy, Palmer says we all have a job of bringing light into the darkness. Compassion is the most important of human qualities, and strength is within us. As she says in her last song, we all might be scared, but it’s “just a ride” and everything will be alright.
Pictured top: Amanda Palmer is an irresistible story teller. Photo supplied.