The 800 capacity Corner Hotel was, unsurprisingly, sold out, and as soon as the support act, Exhibitionist, quit the stage, after reaching a triumphant high point with the new song ‘Being A Woman’, the crowd pushed forward as one.
It’s been four years since Kimbra properly toured this country, and the New Zealand singer/songwriter/producer wasted no time in bringing us up to speed, affectively choosing to start the show with the recent DAWN-featured single version of ‘Another Version of Me’. Kimbra approached the track with less subtlety than quiet cut on her own album, extending her wails with vocal delays and even settling into an R&B groove once the kick drum came in towards the end.
Though Kimbra was accompanied by two synth players, one of whom also held a guitar, it was difficult to tell who was doing exactly what at any one stage. Kimbra herself was clearly in control of the beats and her own vocal effects, which she controlled with a series of pads on either side of her microphone. This compact setup gave fluidity to the performance, lending the timings and delivery a natural flow. Songs from this year’s Primal Heart dominated the setlist, though every track seemed to have been slightly, or in some cases completely, remixed for the live show, which certainly kept things interesting.
Dipping into her back catalogue with a nod to “The album that was recorded in Melbourne”, ‘Settle Down’ was also given a stripped back beats-and-synths treatment and sat convincingly alongside the newer tunes. She even snuck her verse from ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ in, as a wry acknowledgement of whence she came.
Kimbra is surely one of the most thoughtful, quirky and original pop stars working today. The busy production that threatened to overwhelm the performance in the first few songs was quickly mixed into place and from then on the vocal was supported by, rather than enveloped by, the production. Her voice was strong and pure, and although she does still tend to over-sing and rely on its force at times, she has also learned to use its dynamism, as well as different voicings and rhythms to great effect. Her intricate hand movements were mesmerising to watch and, along with her Michael Jackson-esque rhythmic vocal tics, seemed to be a part of her natural expression of the music.
Picking up a guitar to perform a jazz-soul version of ‘Past Love’ she reminisced about when she used to live in Melbourne, performing “earnest songs” at Northcote’s Bar 404, muttering “Oh damn!” when the audience politely reminded her that it was, and is, called 303.
Primal Heart’s biggest pop numbers translated very well to the stage unsurprisingly, with ‘Lightyears’ revealing itself as an absolute banger, and ‘Everybody Knows’ not far behind.
One couldn’t help wondering why Kimbra’s team had decided to choose a single night at a medium sized venue such as The Corner that they could easily sell out, rather than say, The Forum. Perhaps it’s because the long-awaited joint tour with Janelle Monae is finally on the horizon? “It’s been too long, but I am coming back,” she announced for the second time of the evening. “Trust me.”
Written for Beat Magazine. Read our April interview with Kimbra here.