Vivid Live 2023: Kimbra

Kate Young
28th May 2023

Kimbra – Joan Sutherland Theatre – Opera House

Vivid Festival is back again with another exceptional line up of artists about to take the stage and blow the roof off of the Opera House.

Tonight I got the chance to experience the wonderful Kimbra, I read somewhere that tonight’s show was to be her first ever headlining debut here in Sydney. How is itpossible that such an exceptional artist who has been creating music for the last twelve years is now only getting the spotlight she deserves? Kimbra first popped up on Australian airwaves in 2011 when she appeared on the Gotye hit “ Somebody that I used To Know”, which topped the charts in 23 countries, won two Grammy’s and just happens to have been my phone ringtone for the last 5 years (No lie). Her debut album “Vow”, was released shortly afterwards in 2012 and went platinum in both Australia and New Zealand. Kimbra is a musical force that mixes pop, r&b, jazz, rock and whatever she likes in-between. Having just released her forth album “A Reckoning” an album that reflects on the artist’s inner journey over the last five years, creating some of her most personal work to date.

The morning of the performance all audience members had received an email with a message from Kimbra stating that she was going to be playing a different type of show. The night’s performance would depend on the audience, asking us to arrive open minded and ready to enter the experience differently to how we might usually. Curious?? Indeed I was!!!

Opening up with Save Me, a sweeping string number that is quite revelling and sensitive, a song that strips Kimbra down lyrically to a place she can’t hide. The stage was minimal with a drumkit/drummer, keyboard/keyboardest, a microphone center stage and a guitar just slightly off to the right. The stage was lit with bright lights and fog. Kimbra emerged like an amazon queen in this dystopian neon sound scape, and we were about to be asked to join along this journey, to enter Kimbra’s world and fully immerse ourselves into the experience. When asked previously to be open minded, what that entailed, as Kimbra explained, was to ask everyone to be present, social media did not belong here, to give into the silence, applause was to be held so there was no distinction between performer and audience. We had to give in and trust the process. What was achieved was an intimate experience like no other.

For the next hour and a half Kimbra lived (as opposed to performing. This was not an act) out tracks from her latest album like Foolish Thinking a song written for her future daughter and the advice that she passed on, Replay! a snarly anthem influenced by those conflicting inner voices and further reflected by the battling electronic beats that accompanied (Think Bjork’s Earth Intruders), Personal Space was a favorite of mine, Kimbra’s voice is like that of a siren and has a way of cooing you in seductively only to tell you that she needs her distance… she’s such a heartbreaker that way and last but not least was New Habit. A few other songs intertwined in the set list were from her 2018 album release Primal heart, Past love, Amazonian chant heavy Top of the World and the other standout for me was the ballad Version of me, I feel like this was Kimbra at her most exposed for the night and really drove home the under lying theme of all these songs, the strive she has to be the best possible version of herself? Kimbra questions herself can she ever be the a finished article or is she forever just in a process to becoming one. With lyrics such as But there’s a better version of me /Stay for the person I’ll be. It’s never clear, is she asking a lover, the audience or herself. 

The Encore felt like a reward for us audience members, Kimbra knew she had asked a lot from her audience, to just trust and go along with the experimental experience and as a way to give thanks, gave fans exactly what they wanted. Playing three of her signature songs from her debut album Vows, we got stripped back, interactive and reimagined versions. Starting off with Cameo Lover which derived back to more her light-hearted pop tunes, this had everyone bopping along and wearing grins, Wandering Limb which is hands down my favorite song from her extensive collection of songs, this had me in tears for many reasons, but the main one being that I never thought I would ever get the chance to see it performed live. The performance itself did not disappoint as she invited Sam Lawrence on stage. Kimbra stated that the last time they performed the song together was 10 years ago, but neither had to worry, the tension between them was still so palpable, almost like magnets they were drawn together but still some force kept them from ever getting too close but oh… when they sang, their voices just melted and danced around each other. Final song of the name was Settle Down, this is where the interactive part came in, Kimbra asked the audience to sing back some lines to her that was cleverly then looped back into the song, which for any fan that’s one of biggest honors an artist can offer you, by asking you to become part of the songs you love.

The reason I love coming to these Vivid Live performances is because you never know what your going to get, I mean we know that no matter which artist it is it will always be an amazing performance. You just need to look at the lineup of artists they have, it’s never a list that’s going to disappoint, even the pickiest of audience member will find something. Tonight however was something that exceeded all expectations. Kimbra not only gave a standing ovation performance but she created an experience that was once in a lifetime. I feel like we as viewers and I include myself if this whole heartedly, forget to just live in the moment, even as a reviewer I’m always paying attention but I’m also trying to note down in my head the songs that were played or what words I could use to best describe the experience without truly living in it. Kimbra tonight gave me so much of herself, so much joy, so much peace and made me feel closer to an artist then I ever have before. I was held in her vortex and it’s amazing that in a whole room full of people it felt like it was just her and I and I think that’s how everyone felt at tonight’s performance.

Thank you Kimbra for reminding me of how a performance is supposed to make me feel.