Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Music: Amanda Palmer and Grand Theft Orchestra

Astor Theatre
September 8 2013

I was unforgivably late to American punk cabaret diva Amanda Palmer’s Astor show, and caught only the last song by the support act, Die Roten Punkte.
By then, Palmer and her Grand Theft Orchestra, Jherek Bischoff (bass) Chad Raines (guitar) and Michael McQuiken (drums) were on stage themselves, enthusiastically backing up the Aussie comedy-rock duo’s rambunctious magnum opus, Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roboter (I Am a Lion).
Bischoff remained on stage for two solo numbers, and blew the evening away.
His first, Kule Kule, by the Congolese band, Konono No1, was an irresistible attack of solo bass rhythm. It was followed by the most beautiful ukulele playing I’ve ever heard, on A Semiperfect Number, which he wrote for the Kronos Quartet’s 40th birthday.
Like fellow Amanda Palmer alumna, the cellist Zoe Keating, Bischoff used live electronic sampling to create dense sound patterns underneath the uke, which he played like a classical guitarist. Simply amazing.
Palmer will never be an anti-climax, though.

After a grand entrance in a Versace number she’d just picked up on Beaufort Street, she slipped into something blacker and ripped through Do It Like a Rockstar and The Killing Type from last year’s Theatre is Evil, and the macabre Missed Me, from her Dresden Dolls days, which was less theatrical but just as combative as Meow Meow’s version on the same stage a few months ago.
There were stirring versions of Bottomfeeder and Leeds United, and the old theatre literally erupted as she and her tremendous trio thrashed into a phenomenal take on Smells Like Teen Spirit.
It’s sobering to realise a fair portion of the crowd hadn’t been born when Nirvana’s anthem was released.
For all her pile-driving pyrotechnics, Palmer’s best were her lonely The Bed Song, and I Love You So Much by the autistic Boston performer Noah Britton, so simple and pure you couldn’t help but be reminded of Lou Reed’s delicate ballads for the Velvet Underground.
Add a Meow Meow-like crowd surf and bit of fun in the last encore, a hastily composed doo-wop plea for mercy to our new PM, and Palmer has pretty much all bases covered.
In the past couple of years, Perth’s been lucky to see Palmer, Meow Meow, East End Cabaret, Camille O’Sullivan, Martha Wainwright and Christa Hughes, the vanguard of female rock cabaret.
There is simply nothing better or more exciting than these women in either field.

This review appeared in The West Australian 10.9.13         

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