Amanda Palmer played Q Theatre in Auckland – a catharsis of songs from a variety of times, energies and places – though centrically revolving around the singer-songwriters 2.5 year stint locked down in New Zealand during the global pandemic.
It is clear to all to watching that New Zealand has had a profound impact on Palmer and her collection of newly released E.P New Zealand Survival Songs were all played in full.
Played in full does not just reference length. Palmer sang her goddamn heart out – her face contorted madly and raised up to face the ceiling as the melodies and their associated emotions bubbled and boiled over into the room.
Palmer talked between every song at length, painting an in-depth contextual landscape that assists the audience in their understanding got the deep emotional chasms and soaring emotional mountains Palmer traverses.
Her explanations of the songs meaning, creation and feeling gave an intimate face-lift to the theatre show – a distinct ‘small room’ feel to a not-so-small room.
The whole show seemed designed this way – Palmers personal discussions, her song selection and even the lack of shoes on her feet all wove into this intimacy.
Sitting in the theatre almost felt like you were being offered a peak in to Palmer’s musical closet. The audience gets to see the machinery behind the songs, almost more than the songs themselves.
The 3 Hour show (including a 20 minute intermission) included guest appearances (and re-appearances) by Julia Deans, Aurelia Torkington and Selina Tusitala Marsh.
These appearances brought a liveliness and freshness as the monologues of Amanda turned into conversations – and an excitement as some characters she had just been discussing appear on stage to woo us with a song or poem, before fading back into the curtains.
While playing with Palmer, Julia Deans revealed a song that will open her new album, Aurelia Torkington played one of the first songs she had ever written and Selina Tusitala Marsh read a beautiful poem, an ode to JP.
All these performances also fed into the ‘behind the curtain’ peak that Palmer was cultivating – and they did so powerfully and with wonderful nerve.
Yet, for this intimate feel of the show, I constantly noticed the obviousness non-intimate components of the show and venue.
Smoke drifted around Palmer, pumped from an unseen machine, bright purple lighting covered the entire stage and the audience is sat not in a pub or a living room but instead a several hundred seat theatre.
This small-room big-room dichotomy didn’t take away from the show.
Instead it created a unique environment that at times did feel like an Amanda Palmer Therapeutic Talk Show, complete with special guests and a live studio audience.
There isn’t anything cheap or gimmicky about the show however. Palmer holds the space with artistic clarity and assertion. You get the distinct feeling that Palmer’s songs consist of woven memories that cradle her as she lives and sings.
It was awe-inspiring to hear such frank lyrics sung out with complete sincerity. Palmer’s lyrics have a straightness to them, there is no need for their truth to be wrapped and hidden in metaphor.
This openness in her lyricism accompanied perfectly with the openness of her discussion of the songs. She brought them out almost to the dissection table for the audience to observe.
This dissection meant a smile was brought to my face when her lyrics mentioned those ideas or people she had just been discussing in the songs preamble.
A familiarity with Palmer is created over the length of the show wherein you feel a little like those lyrics, although just a passing moment of song, is a little secret known to only the two of you.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Jeong:
Amanda Palmer Setlist:
In My Mind (ukelele version)
Runs In The Family
The Man Who Ate Too Much
Not Really Happening (Julia Deans new song)
The Ballad Of The New York Times
Coin Operated Boy (Dresden Dolls song)
I Can’t Believe We Were Married’ (Paul Kelly cover) with Julia Deans
On An Unknown Beach (Peter Jefferies cover)
I’m Scared Of Myself (Aurelia Torkington)
Whakanawha (duet with Aurelia)
Bonds of Separation for J.P (Poem by Selina Tusitala Marsh)
The Runner (new Dresden Dolls song)
Little Island (duet with Julia Deans)
Amanda Palmer Performs in Wellington next:
Saturday 27th January – Old St Pauls, Wellington
Tickets on sale HERE