Back to back Amanda Palmer aka how sore are my feet? A little tenderness in the soles is well worth the effort of standing through performances by AFP, especially when she’s backed up by such splendid talent.
It’s a real cabaret atmosphere, with Palmer the centre of attention for the cultish fans: hence the non-stop murmur of conversation and bint-twittering throughout the rest of the gig. The inane shout-outs were saved for AFP: you know you’re old when you want to get to a gig that starts on time, where the crowd doesn’t squish you, where you can listen and watch and be a part of the performance without being a party to someone else’s casual chat.
But don’t let the grumblings of an old fart put you off, nor give you a false impression: last night’s gig rocked, and Melbourne’s Forum theatre, with its peeling walls, faux Roman architecture and star-studded twilight-blue sky, was the ideal backdrop for this kind of controlled mayhem. (Can’t wait to see Gary Numan tear it up!)
In fact, this was perhaps the most orderly show I’ve seen of AFP’s, though it wasn’t a regular rock gig, oh no (never!). Guests kept coming back; having played their own couple of tunes, they’d pop back to duet a bit later on. The Tin Stars, with Mikelangelo up front, provided the bulk of the backing — very sharp — after they held the main support slot, with the dashing Kim Boekbinder, the divine Jane Austen Argument and Jason Webley all contributing wee sets. With Webley in the house, it was always on the cards that Evelyn Evelyn would make an appearance — just the one song tonight. The line-up showed much parallel with AFP’s Opera House gig on Australia Day and Webley’s Fitzroy show on Friday night, but it ran to a much tighter schedule with changeovers quite quick. The atmosphere was always relaxed and comfortable, though there were sombre moments: a collection for Christchurch quake survivors (the Australian Red Cross is taking donations) and an echo of Oz Day with a rendition of The Drover’s Boy.
AFP began the night topless in safety harness atop the theatre staging with a quiet ukulele number (Makin’ Whoopee) before doing a slow quick-change on stage — Aussie and Kiwi flags prominent — to get the show on the road. An all-in encore, complete with strip-teasing koalas, of Map of Tasmania and Leeds United — earlier, Coin Operated Boy (and a promise of a possible Dresden Dolls tour Down Under) and Oasis were among the crowd pleasers in a set drawing heavily from the Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under album — led to another, a repeat of the previous night’s drinking song. As AFP remarked, you know it’s been a good night when the stage is littered with headless koalas, women’s clothing and beer.
We could all drink to that.