The curiosity of Sydney-via-Toowoomba’s Kirsty Tickle lies within her multiplicities. 2010s trainspotters, for instance, will recognise her from her time in Brisbane indie-poppers Little Scout (as well as her live bandmates in Exhibitionist, Parades’ Jonathan Boulet and Dead Letter Chorus’ Gabby Huber). Those with an ear for the more avant-garde may have also seen Tickle transmogrifying the humble saxophone as one-half of Party Dozen alongside the aforementioned Boulet. When it comes to Exhibitionist, however, it could not be further removed from any of her previous works. It’s breathy and intimate, yet simultaneously expansive and explorative. Tickle’s arrangements build up lush streams of synth warble to gently brush against her quivering falsetto, incorporating elements of trip-hop and dream-pop in the process. Several songs are complemented by an on-stage dancer, studiously mirroring Tickle’s own moves and adding a further dimension to the performance element. Although less than a year old as a stand-alone project, Tickle’s veteran status shines through in the live environment. Look no further than closing number “Being a Woman,” which rouses Helen Reddy-approved roars from the fairer sex in the room and sees Tickle ascend to a new plane of righteous empowerment and rage. Exhibitionist, tellingly, demands your attention.
In the years since Kimbra last toured Australia, she meticulously pieced together what was to become her third studio album, Primal Heart. In town as a part of Splendour in the Grass festivities, her world tour in support of the LP is our first taste of her reinvented stage show. In the past, the New York-based Kiwi has enlisted a full backing band and pulled out all the stops that such a thing entails – big drum fills, guitar solos, extended jams and even the odd math-metal breakdown (seriously). As a part of her new live show, the ensemble has been stripped back to just two – long-serving guitarist Timon Martin and keyboardist Spencer Zahn – with Kimbra herself taking care of drum machines and programming herself. It’s considerably stripped back from the flash of her earlier performances, but in the context of the more electronically-driven Primal Heart it suits to a T. “The Good War” is delivered with extra oomph, a lush “Past Love” soothes the soul and “Top of the World” hits a new high of energy levels as the crowd lets off soul claps and bounces the floor in time with the clattering beat. Older songs, too, like “Two Way Street” and breakthrough single “Settle Down,” are reinvented into hazy electronic bliss-outs. Even surrounded by gadgets, Kimbra holds strong as the central presence on-stage. Despite an apparent illness (which was only detected from a few mild coughs between songs), her voice remains an absolute powerhouse – an adaptable weapon that’s deadly when put to its full use.
Having come up through the ranks via extensive touring of Australia, a Kimbra show always feels like a sort-of homecoming for the one-time citizen. She continues to adapt, evolve and consistently engage as an artist, and her audience remain thankful.