Kimbra / The Stepkids
Commodore, Vancouver, BC, September 25
Producing lush three-part harmonies that would do Motown proud, with soaring falsettos offsetting grounded deliveries, they played with skill and swagger, coming across tight yet groovy in their extended, technical jams. Perhaps they were still a little raw in their banter and stage presence, dressed in white head to toe to blend in with the lo-fi psych projections blasted in their faces for their entire set. It made a reciprocal connection with the crowd difficult, but they were overwhelmingly nice.
Bassist Dan Edinberg used the word "cordially" twice, inviting people to meet them at the merch booth to hang out, while drummer Tim Walsh had a grin a mile wide plastered across his face for their entire set. They're a band you want to root for, even though, in the most important ways, they've already made it.
New Zealand's Kimbra Lee Johnson, commonly known by her first name, may not be super well-known in North America outside of that Gotye single, but you wouldn't know it to see her. Taking the stage with a four-piece band to the theme from The Godfather, herself wearing a festive reflective red, white and green dress with a tinsel vest, Kimbra radiates star quality.
Her presence was dramatic yet not overly staged, forming an instant rapport with the crowd as she twirled, thrashed, flipped her thick, black hair, and grappled with invisible entities whenever she wasn't showcasing her dynamic, awe-inspiring voice that seems to belong to the ages.
Kimbra has the powerful pipes of a legendary diva, up there with the finest the music industry has ever known, but she doesn't fall prey to the calculated histrionics that make Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey hard to take seriously. From her emotive voice to her joyous presentation, it's obvious Kimbra feels what she does, pulling from some place deep inside for her Nina Simone cover "Plain Gold Ring" and single "Two Way Street" (both from her debut album Vows).
After this tour, the next time you see her will likely be in a stadium.
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