The show began as Palmer, who became known as half of the dark and dramatic duo, The Dresden Dolls, was showered in the shiniest of garments, sequins spewed forth as she crowd-sourced costumes for the show while introducing the theatrical Aussie duet, The Jane Austen Argument, whose raw balladry gave way to Brighton based Bitter Ruin. Imagine the maddened mis-aborted lovechild of Charles Manson and Kate Bush and you’ll begin to fathom Bitter Ruin. Intricate, intense duets with stabbing, percussive, call-and-response vocals and theatrical, tormented love fuelled anger. An Impressive feast for ears and eyes.
Amanda F*cking Palmer, as she’s come to be known, soon took to the keyboard and exploded in a veritable smorgasbord of delicious steampunkpop cabaret. She kicked off with Astronaut: an enormous sound, all kick drums and cymbals, frantic piano and strings care of Shakira’s amazing stolen violinist Una Palliser. They grabbed the crowd by the spleen and didn’t let go; bellowing over the incessant buzz of a bad sound system to coax the devastatingly young crowd in to a frenzy. A feat. AFP is the much adored poster child for every self harming alternative type, coercing that dark, questioning eyed nonchalant sway in to fist pumping, booty shaking dance deserves respect.
After a few more classics she took a detour to experiment with a few new songs, backed by The Grand Theft Orchestra, which included impromptu support from Eric Clapton’s brass section. They delivered a sparkly synthed up new set of hyper-colour glam rock, but only after warning and warming the already sweat dripping crowd with a synchronised calisthenics set to Michael Jackson and Men Without Hats. Absolute Gold. Everyone should takes a break in the mid gig to dance around on stage to cheesy 80′s music. The new songs take a different direction, they take a side step from dark drama towards dance but in true AFP style everything is BIG. She seems to take a notion, a feeling, and idea and amplify it till it’s ready to explode, magnify it until glitter is gold and spandex the silver that dreams are made of. My only response to the new sounds is Bigger! More Brass! I want so much brass.
The show rapidly, rabidly evolved in to the AFP variety show, with all singing all dancing all star cast. The Dresden Dolls ‘Delilah’ duet with Georgia of Bitter Ruin being a heart-wrenching highlight. Husband and writer, Neil Gaiman was reluctantly bought forward to sing a song about zombie-joan-of-arc and special guest Tim Minchin surprised the stage his bitter humour before Tom Robinson invoked an full cast and audience sing along. The entire, exhausting show was a sensory, theatrical feast. She’s charming as hell and has endeared me through her aesthetic and ideals as much as her music.
If you’ve a penchant for melodrama, if you like your bitterness sweet and your days full of cabaret, if you want to clever lyricisms and laughter, hop aboard the AFP train. I’ve never looked back.
Out on the streets after the show, finishing beers and waiting for friends I chanced across Lady Palmer herself. She reduced me to a blubbering fangirl as I went in for the hug, but arms laden with gear, she offered me an unexpected open lipped pash. I haven’t stopped giggling since. More rant than review, it’s hard to write when you want to explode. So smitten, that kiss is my happy place.