Kimbra | Live at HiFi Bar

November 22nd, 2014 | Hifi Bar

I knew to expect big things from New Zealand’s Kimbra, but HOLY SHIT. To say that this was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in what I consider to be quite a long and varied list of gigs is definitely not an understatement. Playing to a sold out Hifi Bar in Melbourne on a warm Saturday evening, the wonderfully crazy soul pop princess wowed the crowd with her incredible vocals and fantastic stage presence in support of her sophomore album The Golden Echo. Dressed in a metal panel dress with gold foil shorts underneath and massive black platforms with lacing to match the back of her dress, her energy spread like wildfire and her amazing, if somewhat unorthodox, dance moves created an electric atmosphere amongst us. Kimbra’s crowd interaction was some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

She didn’t stop to have deep-and-meaningfuls with the front row, but rather she made everyone feel included – so safe, so at home. She created an environment where I was not the least bit self conscious about my shocking singing voice (which I think is an absolute travesty, by the way, given my encyclopaedic knowledge of lyrics) that I just knew the guy in front of me would be cringing at, or my terrible I-wish-I-was-cool dance moves that often resulted in elbows in said guy’s back (sorry if that was you, man!). I didn’t even care that I couldn’t see Kimbra herself half the time. I was just so happy to be there and dancing the night away in her presence. I can’t remember the last time I came away from a gig without a single criticism of some annoying punter, but I couldn’t find fault with any of the crowd on Saturday. The show was that good.

Her band was brilliant, highly skilled musicians playing with such enthusiasm – as if it were their first time playing with Kimbra, and yet well oiled enough to be able to follow her through any ad libs or vocal changes from her performance. Featuring a couple of new additions from the US in keyboardist Taylor Graves and bassist Frank Abraham—who pulls some excellent bass faces, by the way—the guys were fantastic in being both the support, but also mesmerising themselves. I’d been told earlier to keep an eye on drummer Stevie McQuinn and was well rewarded—the guy is an absolute powerhouse. Kimbra’s voice is so strong that the instrumental volume didn’t need to be muted at all. The band blew me away with not only how talented they all were but also how happy they were to be there. Having toured in the US for the last 6 weeks, the leading lady mentioned a few times how happy she was to back in the southern hemisphere – especially in Melbourne – where she and a couple of the guys in the band actually live now.

Opening with Teen Heat, Kimbra strode out on stage in a floorlength, gold, feathery cloak before disrobing to reveal her bonkers outfit. We got renditions of Carolina, Madhouse, Love In High Places and so many other highlights from the latest release, as well as tracks such as Settle Down, Two Way Street, and Cameo Lover from her 2011 debut Vows. Standouts for me were the opening single to her new album, 90s Music, and Goldmine, in which Kimbra showed off her golden shorts. There are so many influences on this album, most prominently the very welcome sounds of Daniel Johns, and they are all replicated perfectly in a live setting. She closed the set with my favourite track from the album, Miracle, which never fails to put me in a good mood with its ‘70s disco vibes.

She could have very easily ended there and I would have been content. Instead, we got a beautiful version of As You Are, one of the most personal tracks on the record, made more so when it was accompanied solely by a piano keyboard. The whole of the venue was silent, all you could hear was the air conditioning and the music because the crowd was so absorbed. The song was clearly emotional and has some massive notes in it, eliciting a cheer from the audience when she got there and although she missed one, it was clear it was from pain rather than poor control—the emotion had come through. Then, to close off the fantastic night, we got the wonderfully crazy Come Into My Head from her first album. Now that is the perfect way to end a show.

Kimbra’s vocal acrobatics are much more impressive live than could ever be captured on record – ranging from her normal falsetto key to a more sultry deep note and then right up to keys only the most talented people (and Mariah Carey) should ever dare to go. Use of a backing vocal track only helped to augment her brilliance rather than allowing her to hide behind it. I was amazed at how controlled her voice was considering the amount of energy she would have expended prancing all over the stage, often lying down on the ground and then jumping right back up again. Performing all but one song from the new album, she clearly has faith in the content of the record and its ability to get people dancing. Kimbra puts so much energy into her shows and carries her audiences on a journey through her pop, funk and soul influences with her. She is gracious, wonderful and absolutely mental. Having purchased the tickets to this show for my sister’s birthday, my only problem with Kimbra’s performance is that it’s going to be so hard to top for next year’s 21st gift.

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