Like most of America, I was introduced to Kimbra via her feature on Gotye’s Grammy-winning single “Somebody That I Used to Know,” in 2011. The duet evoked all the emotion of being erased from somebody’s memory. While Kimbra had already achieved international success with her debut album Vows, she exploded on the US pop charts shortly after. For a time, I delved into her discography finding favorites in “Cameo Lover” and more specifically her live rendition of “Settle Down” at SXSW 2012 where she tore up the stage alone with a loop station. While I haven’t kept up with her career recently, her raw talent has been embedded in mind since then. That’s why last Friday, when KGRX tweeted that they were giving away tickets to see her play Paper Tiger, I jumped on the occasion. To my surprise, I won and was ready to become reacquainted with an artist that I used to know.
New Yorkers Son Lux opened up the show with a performance that was as striking as it was bone chilling. The experimental trio combines elements of electronica with post rock tropes. The arrangements are reminiscent of Phillip Glass trading off flourishing strings with glaring synths, held together by ominous tones. Keyboardist/vocalist Ryan Lott creates beautiful orchestrations that paint beautiful pictures of sound. These scores are emphasized by the riffage of guitarist Rafiq Bhatia. Bhatia adds resonance to the sound and every so often takes the spotlight with finger twisting guitar sweeps. He is a master of subtlety, never going too over the top until his moment comes and blows everybody away.
The heart and soul of the band is drummer Ian Chang. He brings a math rock vibe to his drumming that is so methodic, it’s so easy to become entranced. He is what transforms these beautiful scores to driving, compelling songs. Son Lux’s set was a perfect introduction to the night leading up to Kimbra’s set.
Kimbra and her band came on to a roar of applause that echoed throughout the Paper Tiger like nothing I had ever heard before. Her presence alone provoked the kind of atmosphere you see in a packed arena. With an unbelievable vocal range, she is a Top 40 talent with an indie-pop sound. It is a striking combination that translates even further in her live performance. She tore up the stage dancing from her keyboard to the crowd and vice versa. As she shimmied to her music, she effortlessly floated her voice across octaves.
The crowd reciprocated. With every beat of every song, the crowd swayed and roared along. Even when some apparent innocuous sound issues occurred, Kimbra visibly stirred, stayed professional never once taking it out on the crowd. She kept the songs coming and put on one hell of a show, something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.