Photos by Neil Van
Kimbra adds some Kiwi cool to a densely packed Mod Club. The songstress is one of Janelle Monae’s honorary Electric Ladies – a rarefied group including Esperanza Spalding, Estelle (the voice of Garnet from Steven Universe AND an excellent rapper), and T-Boz from TLC. Having Janelle’s seal of approval made me eager to see Kimbra live. We even got a (hastily skipped) snatch of Monae’s Sir Greendown in the setup music (presumably too orchestral and chilled for a warm up track). Kimbra cuts a mean figure as she enters the stage. Almost intimidating in her huge heels, towering over the crowd, until she greets everyone; then she becomes sweet, genuine and in short – a real charmer.
The new album Primal Heart, initially touted for release on 19th January, has been delayed until 20th April, which might make this showcase of new material a little hard to access. But many have toured new material pre-album, and Kimbra has been releasing singles and videos to prep her fans for the tour…and to make us hungry for release day. The set was fresh, rich and stuffed with synthy beats –Human being a particular pleasure to hear – it’s so well produced. Kimbra’s music took a left turn after her more mainstream debut Vows, and performing a couple of early tracks would have proved jarring against the ephemeral and cocksure RnB genres she’s skirting nowadays. Unless, that is, she remixed them to fit seamlessly with The Golden Echo and Primal Heart – which is very nicely done with Settle Down. This and the guitar driven tunes, like her stripped back version of new song Past Love, really make the live experience matter. When you go to see a synthy artist, it can feel like a flawless reproduction of the album, but the extra flourishes make it feel very special to be in the sold out audience. That in itself begs a question…why wasn’t Kimbra at the Danforth? I can’t complain too much though – I love tiny venues like The Mod Club; where you can settle into a seat, be so close the artist is sweating on you, or hang out on the balcony and have a perfect view. For me, this is what seeing your favourite musicians is all about – and we’re a very lucky bunch.
Less lucky was the stage projectors going off mid set – Kimbra dealt with it admirably. Not breaking from her powerful, belting vocals, and signalling confidently to the back stage crews. In the end, the projectors were switched off, and nothing felt lost. You don’t need them with the stage presence of Kimbra. Her voice is impressive, as is her command of the half dozen loopers and synths on the stage.
Top of the World was a standout – her rap chops are shown and the beats are infectious; her swagger really flows. The crowning moment of the gig was when Kimbra wowed the crowd with a surprise second encore in which she played Amy Winehouse’s I Heard Love is Blind complete with Amy’s signature soulful lilt.
Seeing Kimbra felt energizing, enrapturing an effulgent. Fantastic gig; tiny, special and bursting with charm. Kimbra – come back soon!