Amanda Palmer does Australia Day in Sydney, 2011

Amanda Fucking Palmer just keeps getting better.

AFP, of Dresden Dolls fame and now carving out a solo career, held court at a packed Sydney Opera House on Wednesday night. It was a precursor to her Down Under tour. But this was special.

For starters, there was an Aussie touch on stage: a Hills hoist and a barbie and an Esky of VB: the booze was rightfully derided as being piss poor, but the cartons did make a fetching backdrop, used as they were to spell out a mighty AFP.

There was a striking voice and piano courtesy of the Melbourne duo The Jane Austen Argument (playing support on AFP’s tour), and rollicking Gypsy-ish fun with Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen. The latter provided backing for AFP on a bunch of numbers during the night, showing a high degree of charm, humour and flexibility — one member played piano accordion, sax, organ and electric guitar. And there was a big-screen appearance from Meow Meow and, in the flesh, Kim Boekbinder (also touring with AFP, and author of the gorgeous New Orleans themed tune Big Easy).

And then there was Neil Gaiman, who read a yarn he penned to accompany Amanda’s Who Killed… book, the project that brought them together, and then a poem he’d penned in Hyde Park for Australia Day about our lost megafauna, and then a poem for Amanda.

And then of course there was AFP herself, cavorting with the crowd in her Union Jack corset like a charming and chaotic ringmaster, set list forsaken, band slightly shaken, snags cooked on a barbie, smoochings in the crowd and, in essence, damned good fun.

There were tunes from her new album and some crowd favourites, some silly fun ones and some that were somewhat more serious, and others simply beautiful: a ballad called The Drover’s Boy, just reminding us that the colonisation of this continent that was being celebrated that day had come at a cost to the indigenous inhabitants, and then the concert closer, Nick Cave’s The Ship Song, sung from the balcony.

A raucous encore featuring an all-in rendition of Map of Tasmania and Oasis, complete with glittering gogo dancers, sent the crowd buzzing out the doors after three hours of musical mayhem. The bridge arced over the harbour, mist hugged the skyscrapers, the black-clad tide disappeared into the Sydney streets.

And not an Oi Oi Oi to be heard.

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