I honestly thought I wouldn’t get to see Kimbra perform live. It’s not just because her songs aren’t really played here, nor because I assumed her following here isn’t big enough to justify a concert. I was clearly wrong on both fronts. No, it’s because of typhoon Ruby, which was being portrayed as a really strong one. The concert was to be held outdoors, and Kimbra was already in Manila for three days at that point, but it really looked like there will be a cancellation. I actually ended up asking folks from Solar about it.
Thankfully no storm signals were raised over Manila, and the show – Kimbra was headlining Jack TV’s MAD Fest – went on as planned. There were a lot of people, and they were all there for the Kiwi singer-songwriter (and Grammy winner, really), and she clearly relished the opportunity to perform for such a receptive crowd – although I thought she missed a trick by not going nearer to the crowds despite saying she wished we were closer. (The stage had two levels: all the local acts were at the lower one, and Kimbra was at the upper one, for some reason.)
Despite that sense of disconnect – something that, coupled with the sudden ban on photographs from both audience members and the press, nagged me throughout the night – the hour-long set was one of unbridled joy. Anyone who’s seen her live performances knows the energy she brings to the stage: the weird gestures, the way she picks up her tambourine and just goes on and on, the feeling she’d go off-rails for some reason, that smile on her face. Even if she clearly rehearsed the usual “salamat, Manila” line we’ve all heard from foreign acts coming here, you can tell she’s really having a good time.
Having a live band meant hearing favorite songs in a different light, notably “Cameo Lover” ditching the wall of sound production for a funkier breakdown, and “Come Into My Head” ending in an extended riff that, inevitably, being the last song, led people to want more. And I can’t blame them. She was there, giving it her all, and yet it all felt weird, knowing that, even if everyone wants to be closer, there’s this gulf that’s preventing us from doing so. Oh, well, maybe next time, hopefully. [NB]
Setlist “Teen Heat” / “Carolina” / “90s Music” / “Settle Down” / “Nobody But You” / “Goldmine” / “Two Way Street” / “Madhouse” / “Cameo Lover” / “Love In High Places” / “Miracle” / “Come Into My Head”