Amanda Palmer fulfills promise

DRESDEN DOLLS: The duo from Boston comprising Amanda Palmer on piano and vocals and Brian Viglione on drums are set to play next week.
DRESDEN DOLLS: The duo from Boston comprising Amanda Palmer on piano and vocals and Brian Viglione on drums are set to play next week.

American musician Amanda "" Palmer, as she prefers to be known, is a distinctive character. With her extravagant costumes, her penchant for wearing underwear and suspenders on stage, elaborately artful eyebrows and rampaging songs about loneliness, animosity and chaos, the Dresden Dolls' Palmer is a mighty force.

Palmer's provocative live show and bombastic nature give the impression that she is not to be messed with.

As she once wrote on her blog: "People love to judge. Too feminist, not feminist enough, too outspoken, not outspoken enough, too intellectual, too dumb, too glam, too underdressed, too funny, not funny enough, too inappropriate, too safe. Fat, irritating, loud, blah blah blah etc, ad infinitum. This is something I've just had to learn to live with."

Palmer, who is the singer, and pianist for the Dresden Dolls, alongside drummer Brian Viglione, was due to perform solo at AL's Bar in Christchurch on February 22, 2011.

"I was on my way to Napier Airport to catch a flight to Christchurch. The promoter and my support act were already there; my promoter had, I believe, just booked into the Hotel Grand Chancellor," Palmer says.

"We had a bit of time to spare before the plane left so we stopped at a cafe and I was eating a sandwich when I got a text to say there had been an earthquake in Christchurch and not to get on the plane. After that first text the texts just started flooding in. After about five minutes I knew something big had happened."

Palmer went to the airport and, together with a group of people from Christchurch who had been about to fly home, watched the television in horror as the tragedy unfolded.

"It was intense. We all stood huddled around the TV in Napier Airport. It was about the size of a bathroom. So much ran through my mind. I was hoping people would be rescued, I was hoping fans who had travelled to Christchurch to see the show were OK. I would have given anything to have still gone to Christchurch and somehow played my show. I would have played in a field ... anywhere.

"Music is a powerful, healing tool."

Travelling a lot, Palmer has been in, or on the fringes of, frightening events. In 2010 she was on a plane that landed in Iceland just 20 minutes after the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted.

"I seem to stumble into disasters. It was frightening, all the flights were grounded."

While other international acts seem to be bypassing Christchurch on their so-called New Zealand tours of only North Island venues, Palmer is quick to explain how important it was to her to bring the Dresden Dolls show here.

"For me it's about looking after my fans. Coming and playing music in Christchurch is important to me. I need to make this show special. I'm hoping people can escape their worries for a while."

Author Neil Gaiman and Palmer announced their engagement in January 2010 on Gaiman's website as: Dear The World, we are going to get married, signed, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman.

After Palmer and Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione went on an official hiatus, Palmer released her first solo album in 2008, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, a play on Twin Peaks' Who Killed Laura Palmer? The release also included a book of photographs of Palmer looking as if she had been murdered, accompanied by writing by Gaiman.

Palmer says she and Gaiman are well-suited, particularly as they both understand the different directions and locations their respective careers take them.

The Dresden Dolls played a reunion tour of the United States in 2010, and their current New Zealand and Australian tours come on the back of a "crazy" show in Mexico last December and a "wild" New Year's Eve party in Melbourne.

As an aftershock hits and I leap under the table, Palmer drops a big hint about a new project.

"I'll give you a big hint about where we're recording our new album. We're making it very close to New Zealand.

She admits she has found the solo path easier to tread, only occasionally missing feeling "part of a gang".

She isn't, Palmer says, afraid of sticking up for what she believes in and she believes strongly in interacting closely with her fans.

She was one of the first to complain about Warner pulling her videos from YouTube during the Google v Warner fiasco.

At a concert she told a cameraman to make sure he put the video on YouTube so fans could watch it, and then sang a song to her record label, demanding they drop her.

Her infamous ReBellyon also saw her rely on the support of fans. After releasing a music video for Leeds United, Palmer claimed Roadrunner Records had wanted to pull certain shots from the video "because they thought I looked fat".

Fans posted pictures of their stomachs online and to the record label.

Another project is Evelyn Evelyn, a fictional musical duo, purportedly "discovered on MySpace while in New Zealand" in 2007 by Palmer and Jason Webley.

The duo consists of two "fictional" conjoined twin sisters.

"Our intention with that record was never to hurt. It was made in a spirit of real love and fun and follows the story of two girls who had an extremely rough life and made a record album."

Her last Australasian tour inspired the album Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, a collection of Australian and New Zealand-related songs and collaborations.

One such song is Vegemite (The Black Death), which includes the lines "I cannot hold a man so close who spreads this cancer on his toast. It is the Vegemite, my darling, or it's me."

And no, she doesn't like Marmite either.

"It's just like Vegemite, except it's even grosser."

While in Christchurch, Palmer has plans to do a mystery, impromptu gig, as well as her ticketed one, and will announce details of it on Twitter.

"It is our honour to come to Christchurch, especially after what happened. It was a deal with myself I made in Napier Airport."

Dresden Dolls at the Aurora Centre on Wednesday at 7.30pm. Tickets $45 plus booking fee, from Ticketek. Fundraiser for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

Anyone who did not get a refund for the cancelled Amanda Palmer show scheduled for February 22, 2011, can use their ticket for this Dresden Dolls show.

January 27 - Powerstation, Auckland

January 28 - The Opera House, Wellington

The Press