Live Review_ Kimbra, New Zealand

Splendour in the Grass 2012

She needs no introduction. She is New Zealand’s resident musical wunderkind based in LA via Melbourne via Hamilton. Her debut album Vows is pure jazz confectionary meets hipster prog – pop that, inexplicably has incited a cult following. Last night, in a reclusive downtown part of Auckland at club 1885, Kimbra and her fellow kiwi/band mate/drummer Stevie Cat Jnr and touring pianist Taylor Graves turned up for an exclusive DJ set for George FM on the day of her sophomore release of The Golden Echo. After some shameless begging, I dragged my brother along to the gig (and I begged with great fervor, after all the All Blacks were on that night) to see what all the fuss was about. 

I’m not a great fan of crowded places. Adjectives such as ‘intimate’ and ‘exclusive’ had been thrown around on the radio for this gig and I had bought into them with sufficient naiveté. But that was about the extent of my homework… so despite my ticket proclaiming an 8.00pm start; Kimbra herself wasn’t actually on till 11pm. And any other night, that would have been fine, except I had hustled my brother into coming and he had agreed on the proviso that we would be home in time for the game – at 11pm (sorry Luke). But in the downtime, there were a few local DJ’s that were surprisingly impressive (that’s not a commentary on the quality or lack thereof of Kiwi DJ’s, I’m just constantly underwhelmed in venues like these). Lots of 90’s R & B, even some Slow Club and lost hearty nostalgia. The highlight undoubtedly in the form of a resident George FM DJ Aroha and the poetic styling of MC Tali, especially when Tali owned a guy who called out Aroha with a duly unwelcome ‘Ohhhhh …you f*cked up!’ in light of a technical hiccup. ‘You never do that to a DJ! Its disrespectful and rude … its not the DJ’s fault, you never yell at them that they f*cked up!’

Shame you twit, you just got told in from of the whole of Auckland’s guppy population.


Speaking of guppies, my goodness how times have changed. Perhaps I’m just so used to Melbourne, people at these gigs normally look like musicians themselves, not botoxed stepford wives in kitten heels and weaves. I had expected more, hipsters sans socks and indifferent conversation. Had it been that long since I had been to a gig in Auckland? Is this what visage de jour now looked like? Am I just really old? (Um yep, pretty much). I made friends at the bar with some like-minded folks who were seemingly as perplexed by the crowd as I. We stuck together the rest of the night, and when Kimbra came on finally at 11.20pm we were all drowning, the guppies were out in full swing. One of them asked to hop on my brother’s shoulders and she was already taller than him and I together … way to be considerate.


Kimbra was joined by Taylor Graves and her drummer Stevie Cat Jnr who did a majority of the mixing. The crowd was pretty frenetic by that point, I pulled a girls hair that stood on my foot and although I don’t condone violence (per se) the lack of consideration completely blindsided me. Thankfully in came a welcome distraction when they started with a disjointed, jarring version of 90’s music, the first release from The Golden Echo.

Kimbra was her normal, smiley, head banging self and amidst all the dross in the crowd, you could still feel her sheer love for what she does. The set boasted tracks from the 90’s, a mixture of pop and R & B and although Stevie Cat spun most of the time Kimbra did manage to put vocals on top of most of the tracks, which was redeeming at least. I couldn’t stay for the whole set, honestly, I was too close to clawing someone’s eyes out. But I will say, Kimbra has come a long way. I’ve watched her career steadily from its inception, from watching her at The Dog’s Bollix several years ago as a relative unknown, to seeing Simply On My Lips on C4 after uni to the iconic Palais theatre in St. Kilda and now a bourgeoisie alcove in downtown Auckland City.

In all seriousness though, seeing this girl do big things is a delight. At times, tt’s almost visceral the way she consumes her craft, or is it the way it consumes her? So despite the guppies, some major greasing to my brother afterward and lengthy sojourn home from our train stop, it was an excellent night out to see this class act at work again. Perhaps The Golden Echo is really just the afterglow you feel once you’ve seen her in the flesh.

shan kapa