If I were given one word to describe New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra, probably best known for singing the female part on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” it would be eccentric.
But that word is based almost entirely on her live show, where — after dimming the lights and playing the theme for The Godfather over the 9:30 Club’s speakers on Tuesday — Kimbra walked onto the stage, decked out in sleek elevator shoes, a fluffy dress laden with glitter and color (which eventually became a tutu), and what looked like pom poms draped over her shoulders. She would’ve looked even more out of place if her drummer wasn’t rocking a sweet high top fade.
But, even though concerts are performances — and as such necessitate an element of spectacle — the music obviously remains the reason people flock to see their favorite musicians.
And this is where my word — eccentric — is a little less fitting. While Kimbra’s music is passionate, catchy, and infused with tribal beats, at times it seems (for lack of a better word) a bit mainstream, which, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing. Art can be both innovating and popular. But in this instance, Kimbra’s music seems a little less innovating than her style. Songs like “Posse” can feel somewhat trite, as Kimbra sings about what seems like middle school social problems. And, while “Two Way Street” was both catchy and fun to listen to, its chorus chants a cliché my parents repeated when I was dumped for the first time: Love is a two-way street.
But that is not to say that the music or the performance were bad either. Kimbra can belt it. She has an incredible voice. She shined on “Plain Gold Ring,” where each passionate noted resonated and lingered among the crowd of silent onlookers. It was a good — albeit heavier — break from a set of poppy tunes whose infectious grooves even got the best of the two 40-somethings dancing in front of me.
On the whole, Kimbra’s music is enjoyable, particularly live. Her giddy disposition seems genuine, and it definitely raises crowd morale. It’s easy to tell that she loves what she does, and she’s good at it. Kimbra’s performances, although eccentric, demand your attention. And when her music really gets good, like on crowd pleaser “Settle Down,” it’s hard not to like it.
Brandon Hook is the Online Assistant at Sojourners.
Photo: Wylio / Stuart Sevastos, Flickr