Kimbra, Janelle Monae - The Forum, Melbourne

Written by David Claridad

Kimbra, Janelle Monae - The Forum, Melbourne

It’s baffling to think how the Golden Electric Tour came together without a hitch. Having two sublime international artists like Kimbra and Janelle Monáe execute a co-headliner across Australia at such short notice is almost like waking up on Christmas Day without the Advent calendar lead-up. And you really don’t know what to expect from these two soulful sisters.

In Act One, Kimbra took the stage done-up like Dita Von Teese. Her dark hair was lit up by the neon reflections of her golden dress, which seemed to explode at her waist like a supernova of silk and embroidery. She performed a nine-song set, including three new tunes, remaining literally electric throughout. It was clear to everyone present that Kimbra was pulling out all the stops for what she herself referred to as this “big event” – and who could disagree?

One song in, Settle Down set the performance soaring with the band’s bass-heavy breakdown taking us into an explosive guitar-synth solo, all while Kimbra floated around the stage hitting the big notes as if possessed by some force. During the performance of Two Way Street, it seemed as though the sheer power of her vocals was blowing her about the stage like a leaf in the wind.

Next she played the trap-like 90s Music. It’s alien from anything Kimbra had showed listeners on debut album Vows, but one could tell that it comes from the same artist, who simply doesn’t wish to repeat herself on the follow-up effort. The result is a challenging song influenced by a Gwen Stefani quirkiness mixed with a Sleigh Bells-like boom, and a pinch of Muse’s rock opera elements. For an artist as singular as Kimbra, 90s Music is her most out-there track to date.

There were some quieter moments too, but they held no shine to the louder, and ultimately ‘funner’ songs, like new track Miracle – Kimbra’s attempt at dissecting and in fact defining disco. The track finds its home somewhere between Earth, Wind & Fire and Madonna circa Holiday, providing good vibes all round, and showing promise for Kimbra’s second record.

The classy and familiar Cameo Lover got the crowd moving again. Though it is arguably one of her best songs, it’s soon overshadowed by her closers. Opening with a new track that featured bass heavier than The xx and a beautiful showcase of Kimbra’s vocals, she soon closed the set with the classic Come Into My Head.

Following an extended downtime, the lights went down and Monáe’s band, dressed predominantly in solemn white took the stage. It’s a different tone from the electrified anticipation of before, particularly when the bandleader held up his hand to quiet the punters and launched into a written statement: “Janelle Monáe is ill and will not be performing tonight.”

It’s disappointing news but taken in relatively good stride by the crowd, considering how much more painful it is to hear a Live Nation press release being read to you instead of dancing to the funky neo-soul sounds of Janelle Monáe. Here’s hoping she’ll be on the mend soon.

(Photo by Samantha Thomson)

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