Kimbra is brave. She came clean with her emotions in her Songs from Primal Heart: Reimagined tour stop at Thalia Hall Wednesday night. She revolved about a foot-tall square shaped platform, and divulged her yearning to hungry spectators surrounding her.
And each time Kimbra offered insight into her poetry, she was eloquent and meaningful. Her messages Wednesday addressed death as a common ground, battles we choose and long-distance romance.
She wore a black and white dress with big cut-outs down her legs, just beneath her rib cage and along the sides of her chest. They looked to represent windows onto her literal, physical being, coinciding with the metaphorical emotional passage she opened to her audience that night.
And the choice in color of her dress had to have been doing the same – exemplifying that there is no gray area in this performance. She is being as direct as possible in her lyrics, her physical closeness and the deconstruction of each Reimagined song.
She said it was scary to present herself inches away from her Chicago audience, and her meaning by that might seem obvious. But I questioned whether it might actually be a fear of transitioning her already personal words and harmonies into a vulnerable relationship with her audience.
Kimbra paced around the square at least twice per song, usually stopping in one corner, then the next, to acknowledge and serenade fans. One man on the opposite corner from me was absolutely mesmerized by every glimpse of eye contact he could earn from her.
This girl doesn’t just bring a set with re-crafted songs and perform them on a pre-prepared stage. Kimbra puts her all into every part of her career, and that means performing songs in the agony that her words convey. With just an upright bass, a piano and her echoing voice, Kimbra cries in an outburst for acceptance in “Version of Me.” That’s with Dawn, who opened the evening at Thalia Hall. The duo sang live together for the first time, and the song’s crescendo into a climax exhibits what looks and sounds like two ghosts using every part of their beings to communicate something to the living they left behind.
Accompanying her on a seamless set of progressions was pianist Zach Tenorio-Miller and upright bassist Spencer Zahn.
The whole performance and Kimbra’s evolved brand is about acceptance through and through. And this song implores its audience to be patient and understand that growth will come. Kimbra and Dawn together croon that “I’m damned if I’m true and I’m damned if I’m lying,” a prime example for those of us who struggle with who we are because we don’t fit in. But crossed wires leads to the death of something that could have been.
Kimbra described a long-distance relationship that she ended recently. She said it depended so much on technology that “We were glitching in and out for this romance.” The inability to literally connect led to the demise of that relationship, but brought her to her next song, “Hi Def Distance Romance.” Kimbra’s lyrics are specific and descriptive, her language so compelling and right.
She went on to also talk about the political climate ever since her move from New Zealand to the United States, and the banding together that politics has inspired here. She expressed excitement that she has the opportunity to participate in women’s marches and a time in which Black Lives Matter is becoming a clearer concept, for example. That interlude led to her next Reimagined song, “The Good War.”
“We’ve all got to fight the good fight,” she said, adding, “but we come to learn how meaningless it becomes sometimes.” Though our legislature recently happily somersaulted, it sounds like Kimbra wants her audience to acknowledge that unethical governmental powers remain a strain, continuing to puppeteer the public, and indirectly, those who fight the good fight.
Her set wasn’t all just serious, even though the attentive hush throughout her audience sometimes conveyed it to be. She broke the silence at one point, joking with a fan eating popcorn in one of the front rows. “I’ve never seen that before!” she laughed. She had us laughing now too, almost relieved for the break in tension and to meet another color of her vivacious personality.
This 28-year-old powerhouse singer had been awake since 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, but she clearly lives – and I mean lives – in her singing and presentation. Kimbra was meant for the stage, to share her story.
Earlier Wednesday, she told The John Williams Show that “I knew I could really make people happy with this gift.” She was right.