All photos: Katherine Gaines
Be forewarned. I’m about to go on a quick happy-rant about why Kimbra’s show at the 930 Club Tuesday night was the essence of perfection. Because I have nothing bad to say about this show or Kimbra in general. Because Kimbra is talented and creative. Because Kimbra kept us engaged for every single second of the show. Because I can’t imagine a more appropriate opener than The Stepkids. Because the entire show far exceeded my already high expectations. So I hope you don’t mind my unapologetic gushing. This show was one of the most enjoyable shows I have ever seen.
Kimbra is the more talented, more deeply in touch with things-meaningful, more creative version of any pop star you’ve ever heard of. Yes, Kimbra is all pop: sparkly, upbeat, and dancey. Yet she’s refined, not overproduced, and unchoreographed, and her music requires more more than just your surface level senses. Coming to mainstream after the unanticipated success of her collaboration “Somebody that I Used to Know” with Gotye (I’m sure you’re one of the now 336 million people who have seen the video), Kimbra released her debut album Vows in the States in May 2012, and is now headlining a tour. She’s introspective, fun, and above all passionate, expressing all these qualities through a powerful and diverse vocal range and a unique bag of beat boxing tricks, her voice driving forward, falling playfully, and lifting, often all within the same song.
The Stepkids, a threesome out of Connecticut, brings an intricate combination of R&B, psychedelia, and and basic old school rock ‘n roll, combined with an intimate understanding of their instruments and total equality among the members. A guitarist with shoulder-length curly hair, a drummer in the middle of the stage, and a bassist were lined up along the same plane, sharing equal parts of the stage, the vocals, and solos during songs like Cup Half Full, the Suburbs and even an a capella-esque and very beautiful cover of “Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box.”
Kimbra and The Stepkids both were lost and emotional in their own creation, but always cognizant that they were there to engage and entertain. Kimbra’s opening beatboxing in “Limbo,” the sultry dancing of “Good Intent,” her haunting wails during “Two-Way Street,” the schizophrenic emotion of “Settle Down,” her killing it during the line “in my heart it will never be spring” during the “Plain Gold Ring,” and the rip-roaring “Come into my head” finale, among all the others, filled a twelve song set, plus two for the encore. Kimbra belted her songs into two mics, as if to prove that one mic is nowhere near enough for the power she can display, and each of her songs, set to the background of her four member band, had something that made it uniquely spectacular.
The Stepkids’ music is simple in it’s concept but overwhelming in it’s execution. Every song built slowly, in sync with highly choreographed colorful lighting behind them, to eventually feature fast solos, high falsettos, powerful harmonized vocals or some combination of the three. And as the opener, they actually warmed up the crowd. More often than not, there is very little engagement or comparison between the opening and main act, besides perhaps a quick thank you or acknowledgment that both groups are enjoying the tour. Usually I find that openers are a great way to discover music, and less often, though perhaps intentioned, do they put you in the mood to see the main act. But the Stepkids brought the room to just the right energy (high and positive) for Kimba. At so many points in the chatter between songs, the comments from both artists were complimentary of the other and dwelled on how much both groups were enjoying this particular tour. How many times did the Stepkids ask us to give it up for Kimbra? How many times did Kimbra throw a nod back at the Stepkids? Many, for sure.
They had love for eachother, love for the 930 club staff and their famous cupcakes, and love for Washington DC (Kimbra especially, as she told this sold out crowd that the 930 club was her favorite venue in the United States). They were feeling so much love for eachother that apparently, as announced by Kimbra, we’ll soon be seeing a Kimbra/Stepkids collaboration (which will make Kimbra two for two on tourmate collaborations this year – the first being her song Warrior with Foster the People, which she performed midshow on Tuesday).
To top it all off, the show was as much eye as it was ear candy. The unseen 4th member of The Stepkids, the genius behind the lighting that accented the white sheet at the back of the stage, as well as the sharply dressed band members themselves, deserves much of the credit for setting the tone and the pace of the opener’s show. During Kimbra’s set the lighting flickered between green, pink and blue to match this show’s versions of her customary, scandalously short cupcake dresses that featured her legs traveling miles down to the stage. Kimbra, with her red lipstick and black bob sticking out several inches from her face, danced, bounced, and fell on the stage, slammed her pink tambourine, smiled a mile wide and never once gave us a chance to relax or disengage. Conclusion? This was pure entertainment, and part of me wishes it could have gone on forever. I suppose I’ll have to resign myself to watching her her plethora of awesome youtube videos until the next show rolls around.
- Step Kids: