The evening began in the hazy Enmore Theatre with the screams of a few teenage girls announcing that someone was on stage. A rousing a cappella, almost monastic, chant vibrated across the theatre, enticing the audience forward. Sam Lawrence, a soulful singer/songwriter opened the evening with a calming, at times self-indulgent, set that showed off his impressive vocal range. This slowly built up into a stronger sound, ending in a violent, discordant shock.
Shortly after, the more mainstream Aussie pop-rocker Daniel Merriweather took the stage with his band, playing a string of somewhat melancholic rock ballads. The standout in this set was a song off Merriweather’s new album called Love. The crowd really livened up when Merriweather played the upbeat 2008 hit Change, with the set finishing soon after with a Nine Inch Nails cover.
Despite everything running (surprisingly) on time, the wait for Kimbra seemed interminable. This feeling was only worsened as the fascinating set consisting of three giant picture frames was lowered. But, as scheduled, Kimbra and her all-male band took the stage at 9:15pm. Kimbra started the set with Limbo, demonstrating a muppet-like enthusiasm as she bounced around in a silver bubble dress. The giant frames burst into colour and light, engaging the senses in what was an extremely tight and artistic multi-media production. I was not expecting such a level of showmanship from this relative newcomer to the international stage.
After introducing herself to us (because the audience for the sold-out show still might not know her name), Kimbra continued to captivate with her almost impossibly large mouth and her intensely musical, yet somewhat quirky, dance style. Working through tracks from her album Vows, with a few others thrown in, stand out performances included Settle Down, Old Flame and Plain Gold Ring. The band increased the energy and passion in the theatre with pulsating baselines and downright soul. This part of the set finished with an enthusiastic performance of the recent hit Warrior, which comes across as a very neat tribute to everything that was good about 80s pop.
With a quick costume change into a red tutu, Kimbra teasingly asked the audience “do you like my new dress” in her mixed NZ, Australian and US accent, endearing the audience to her even more. Even when she slowed down for what she called the “emotional ballad time of the set” with Withdraw, there was no loss of intensity in the performance. A new song, Come Into My Head followed, debuting a heavier, rock sound (without losing the funky, soulfulness that is found in so many of her songs).
The set finished with a gorgeous loop version of Wandering Limbs with Sam Lawrence and then, in a flurry of colourful confetti, the 2011 hit Cameo Lover. As a newcomer to the Kimbra fanbase, I was impressed with her album, particularly the clever lyrics and musical nods to jazz and soul. Now I feel like I am falling head over heels. Kimbra attacked the songs with an energy that I did not expect and the performance highlighted her captivating talent as a songwriter, musician, singer and performer.