Amanda Palmer is returning for her annual visit Down Under and the obvious question is: “Why is an American singer, songwriter, pianist and goth poster-girl, engaged to British writer Neil Gaiman, celebrating Australia Day with a gig at the Opera House?”
“I think the misconception is that I’m celebrating the Australian national holiday,” Palmer laughs. “I’m not!”
She is celebrating, mind. The fact that Australia Day kicks off her tour of Australia and New Zealand is more than “a cool coincidence”. Palmer is marking the soon-to-be-announced release of her first independent solo record, a collection of Australia-inspired ballads. “It’s kind of like a love letter to the country,” she says of the album, which is a bundle of tracks recorded live last year.
So what can Amanda’s fans expect of the Opera House show? Tracks from the forthcoming album? Favourites from her recent, does-what-it-says-on-the-label EP, Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele? Who knows? With Palmer, performances are always a surprise. “I’ll do what I always do, which is a little bit of everything, and then do stuff that nobody’s expecting,” she decides. “I don’t like doing the same thing twice. Seriously. I think I get bored.”
Joining the Opera House party are two Melbourne acts: cabaret up-and-comers the Jane Austen Argument and the darkly funny gypsy troubadours Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen (fiancé Neil Gaiman will also appear to give a reading). “It’s nice to be able to share the stage,” remarks Palmer. “I really like the intimacy of just me and a piano and an audience, but I also love rocking out and it’s very hard to rock out without a band.” The Sydney performance will showcase that AP-style eclecticism with a hybrid show of haunting piano followed by signature rock-out sessions backed by the aforementioned ‘Gentlemen.
But really, why Australia? “The song ‘Australia’, for me, sort of ties everything together,” Palmer says. “It’s about having this fantasy that Australia is the place where I can totally reinvent myself and get away from everything that I know and everything that I am and be what it is that I envision and what I want instead of what I’m stuck inside.”
Palmer’s Australian fan base has been especially loyal since the start, beginning with the success of her punk cabaret duo, the Dresden Dolls. In 2005, when the Dolls did their first Australian tour, Palmer knew she had come home. “It felt like Beatlemania!” she recalls. “The Dresden Dolls aren’t a mainstream band and the fact that Australia went nuts for them made me think, ‘Ah! These are probably my people!'”
What is it that Australians hear in the music? “I’d like to think it has something to do with the fact that Australians seem to embrace honesty and authenticity, they’re just one passionate people,” she says. “Australia is really special – I go back every year”. Welcome back, Amanda Fucking Palmer. Suzanne Lourie
Amanda Palmer Goes Down UnderSydney Opera House, Wed 26 Jan with special guests, including Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen and Neil Gaiman