All photos by Elif Geris/Third Coast Review
Kimbra’s entrance stage right at Concord Music Hall Saturday was dominant. React Presents brings another dynamite act to one of Chicago’s intimate and beautiful venues. Kimbra placed herself front and center of two giant perpendicularly standing cubes, where she met her stands of electronic equipment. Kimbra produces live with a slew of electronic synthesizers and vocal loopers, which provide an ethereal touch to her already elegant pipes. She doesn’t miss a single note on stage.
Kimbra began her Chicago set with a few singles off the upcoming Primal Heart, set for an April 20 release. She teamed up with Co-Producer John Congleton (Goldfrapp, St. Vincent). And Kimbra brings the title of the album to stage by utilizing the lighting element in the giant cubes surrounding her band mates. She’s freed herself of musical layering, and brought to her 2017-2018 audience an unguarded Kimbra.
In fact, Kimbra introduced a chilling new song, “Real Life,” towards the end of her set, which she called an experiment. It brings to life in a full, warm music venue the human trait of disappointment. “Real Life” is eerie and it captures the questioning that we subject ourselves to when we aren’t perfect, or when we’re broken. This Kimbra experiment results in audience approval and, well, goose bumps.
She brings down the tempo to “Settle Down” in her performance, one of her earliest tracks I’d call a monster hit. Joining other fan favorites much later on Vows, Kimbra wrote the song when she was just 16. “Settle Down” addresses the primitive version of the female role with the help of visuals displaying a nine-or-so- year-old girl as a housewife in its music video, spying on the other nine-or-so- year-old girl dating her husband.
Kimbra has a pattern of remixing and playing with the song, perhaps conveying a nod to its most obvious message; that is, the evolving role of the female in the home and in modern day society. But in a recent interview with “Cool Accidents,” Kimbra expressed a need to get closer with her audience, to remove the musical layers.
Those lit cubes could signify exactly that – herself and her equipment reside at the top of the stage, while her tour instrumentalists stand behind her and inside the cubes. She wishes not to be kept in a box with her sounds, to reveal herself to her audience and become connected, by tweaks here and there and experimentation with an 11-year-old “monster hit.” She said, “People are beginning to think together.”
On the new album, Kimbra displays a coming of age and knocks down the walls that divide her with us, and with just about anyone who will listen. With such sounds as her chant through “Top of the World,” Kimbra wields in her stage presence power that so many new female artists masterfully bring to the industry, like Marina and the Diamonds, Lizzo and Christine and the Queens.
Kimbra conveyed her need to stay out of the musical box by pressing herself against them and dancing away, head banging. Kimbra displays artistic growth in more ways than one, though. She brings a mature wardrobe, clothed in an abstract, geometric, sleek cut-out dress, to suit her sleek long hair on this tour. Her dress even matched the backdrop of horizontal black and white stripes, perhaps to indicate her new need to confess, and to courageously breach gray areas.