Seeing Peaches perform for a seated audience in an ornate nineteenth century theatre feels weird. Like, the last time I saw her live—at a summer festival, where she crowd surfed and passionately implored everyone to fuck the pain away—I was so high that I spent half of her set dancing and the other half lying down in the grass, staring at a tree.
But Peaches —known to adorn herself with giant golden strap ons and flappy lipped fabric vaginas, duet with Iggy Pop, and pointedly challenge gender norms at every turn, usually while wearing nipple pasties—sometimes like to take a break from ruling the dirty dancefloor to perform one-woman musicals. Tonight, for example, she's taking the stage in Hobart, Tasmania, to sing the entire soundtrack from Jesus Christ Superstar by herself. The performance is part of Mofo—an eccentric four-day art party curated by a casino magnate and an ex-member of The Violent Femmes. Yes, exactly what it sounds like.
Jesus Christ Superstar, for the unfamiliar, is actually less a musical and more a rock opera. You know, like Tommy. Or, uh, American Idiot. It's really fucking strange, to be honest: the Passion of Christ, set to rock music. Idiosyncratically early 70s glam rock music, at that. The songs are very good, and very sexy, and actually entirely befitting of Peaches—who reportedly used to sing along to them in her teenage bedroom. There's no dialogue, just bangers about Mary Magdalene and Jesus getting it on. So, in theory at least, it's easy enough for one person to perform, if she has the vocal range.
Turns out she does. Accompanied by a single pianist and wearing a large puffy labia around her neck, Peaches enters the stage to mild, cautious laughter. It's clear most people in Hobart are unfamiliar with Jesus Christ Superstar and a little unsure of what to expect—the intimate audience, at least where I'm sitting, is a mix of locals and grey-haired art world VIPS who have been flown in from New York City. Directly in front of me is the aforementioned casino magnate. These are the types of people who do not care for Tim Rice nor the Second Testament, but that stops mattering immediately, because this bit of the Bible is pretty familiar even if you've never read it. Story goes something like this: talented, charismatic person gets really famous, amasses a loyal fanbase, and then the inevitable backlash begins. It's fun to crucify those who we once adored, and that's what Jesus Christ Superstar is all about.
She's a little pitchy at the start, but after a short warm up period Peaches has effortlessly transformed herself from androgynous electronic musician to androgynous apostle. She's Jesus, she's Judas, she's Mary Magdalene, she's King Herod. By the time we get halfway through, she's effortlessly and wordlessly commanding the crowd to turn against the musical's hero by chanting "Crucify him, crucify him" over and over (one woman memorably yells out that "Jesus is so SHIT"), in a way that honestly begins to feel a little uncomfortable, and kind of like a crowd at a Trump rally demanding that Hillary be imprisoned. Peaches struts and moonwalks and falls to the ground, and it all culminates in her inevitable crucifixion, with the singer hoisted above the stage while members of the audience are invited to participate in dancefloor worship at her feet.
Watching a loud Canadian woman point to her own imaginary dick as she condemns the King of the Jews to death isn't a rock opera. It isn't a musical, either. It's performance art, and a reminder that someone truly talented doesn't need to regurgitate a greatest hits medley of their own songs in order to entertain. It's probably not our mortal souls, but Peaches sure is the saviour of something.
Image: Katerine Gillespie