Live Review: Kimbra - Palais Theatre

10 May 2012 | 3:01 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

More Kimbra More Kimbra

Where has Daniel Merriweather been? Accompanied by a four-piece backing band plus two background vocalists – one male, one female – he immediately sets a ridiculous standard for tonight's entertainment. Have you heard Giving Everything Away For Free (the track that closes Merriweather's Red album)? This is the opener and demands so much from Merriweather's voice, but he nails it.

Merriweather constantly shifts his weight from one foot to the other and doesn't look at all like he's harbouring such soulful pipes, which makes him all the more charismatic. We are treated to a few songs from his forthcoming EP and there seems to a recurring theme – one's called Vodka and another contains “drink until I'm drunk” lyrics. Both promise great things. Chainsaw is awesome and showcases the extraordinarily talented musicians onstage. Merriweather moves like a rapper, often literally interpreting lyrics through gesture. Cheekily claiming he's built a career on singing covers (see: Stop Me, Mark Ronson's version of Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before by The Smiths on which Merriweather ably supplies vocals), Merriweather tackles Nine Inch Nails' Closer's controversial lyrics become a focal point in Merriweather's arrangement and it kinda grates, somewhat like an angel being defiled. Still, Merriweather's voice gets us “closer to god” and the crowd reaction suggests unanimous support.

Our headline act employs a theatrical opening to match the venue. Staggered elements are brought in, including three suspended frames through which Kimbra's video clips and other assorted visuals drift in and out. Like Merriweather, four phenomenal players plus two vocalists back Kimbra and they form a half-circle upstage. When the petite singer eventually materialises, she resembles a delicious alfoil bon bon. She covers maximum stage surface. It's a bit unsettling watching Kimbra strutting around in platforms, constantly dodging the mic cord, but she doesn't trip up (okay so her ankle buckles once, but she immediately regains poise). The descending keys during Good Intent are bewitching and sound like water drops on a musical staircase. Bringing a tormented edge to her rendition of Nina Simone's Plain Gold Ring, Kimbra demonstrates her connection to both the song and original artist. Kimbra bravely tackles the latest track in the Converse Three Artists, One Song series – Warrior featuring Kimbra, Mark Foster and A-Trak – minus her two collaborators. This upbeat inclusion could easily be a Foster The People track and the punters love it, although we could have used some footage of the other two stars in the visual frames considering Kimbra's music videos are screened therein throughout the show. So energetic is Kimbra's dancing throughout this number that a roadie has his work cut out for him detangling mic-cord spaghetti afterwards.

A costume change sees the chanteuse materialise in her red rose ensemble, complete with tutu skirt. Set highlight Settle Down exhibits Kimbra's special brand of tribal jazz. Withdraw brings it down a notch and white confetti rains down from the ceiling and from under the back curtain once it's raised. It's spectacular, but takes away from this same effect (although using coloured confetti) during set closer Cameo Lover. “This is a song called Come Into My Head, do you wanna come?” Kimbra's banter could be more spontaneous, but the new track (which is on the American version of Vows) is funky and danceable.

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We receive an encore treat when Kimbra invites Sam Lawrence onstage and the pair perform their duet, Wandering Limbs. After a false start (Kimbra is human!) we are impressed by the song that seems a last-minute addition. It's when Kimbra allows us a glimpse into her personality that she truly shines. Wish we'd arrived in time to see Lawrence as well! Cameo Lover sees ushers struggle to ensure bums remain on seats in the balcony's first four rows, where it's deemed too dangerous to dance.

Kimbra will be a household name. Expect action figures stocking shelves for Christmas.