Thursday 15th January @ The Aurora Spiegeltent
There are some performers who defy a single identity. There are some characters that fiction itself could not have imagined. And there are some people who spit in the face of categorisation. Now, there are very few people in this world that can live up to such a reputation. It’s an unknown feat, something rarer than a intelligent comment from Fred Nile. But last night, Kirin J Callinan delivered a performance, in the truest sense of the word, that will ruin perspective for all in attendance. It’s going to be a long time before anyone, or anything, will be able to match the stage power of Kirin J Callinan.
In the Aurora Spiegltent, as part of Sydney Festival, Kirin J Callinan adorns the stage at a little past midnight. A bewitching hour for a bewitching figure. He’s had a costume change from his earlier jaunt at Alex Cameron’s set (who played fantastically as always – one of the best albums of modern times), moving from a sleeveless, floral blue shirt, blood-orange pants and spectacles, to a commanding but minimalist staunchly-white singlet, and thick, gold chain. It seems like an insignificant change, but it allows for his body to ripple and flex throughout his show, adding to the delight and fright of his performance.
Summarising the performance of Kirin J Callinan is useless. It’s an event built upon contradiction; nuance and spectacle sidle side-by-side. Everything has the haze of improvisation and spontaneity, and yet things are too flawlessly perfect. Each line of stage banter that drips from his mouth is an execution of dark comic genius. Every lyric is loaded with an intention, but these intentions vary from phrase to phrase, schizophrenically jumping around, and rarely aligning with the recorded product.
For this, Kirin J Callinan’s performance is literally one of a kind. His prior show was nothing like the one we are witnessing. The one after will also be nothing like the one occurring. In this current moment, the people are witnessing something incredibly special. An opening act that feels like David Lynch is unleashing a horror movie on our minds, as “Stretch It Out” banshee screams burn their way into our skulls. Kirin is a terrifying presence on stage, a God amongst men, distorting sounds and melodies into some of the most thrilling and pungent songs ever created. His style is a lovebite, achingly beautiful, a template of pleasure and pain.
Like a snake on top of Medusa’s head, the set winds whilst turning everyone into stone. An early exhibition of “Landslide” has folks crying out for, “…dust and dirt…”, and his voice mildly chokes everyone in attendance into total adoration. The pain is splattered elaboratley, broad brushstrokes of heartache as apparent as any bruise. But so swiftly, the performance maintains its uninhibited ride into madness. “Embracism” tears strips from the flesh with its masculine overture, and a new cut, known only as “The Teacher” turns the atmosphere into that of a forlorn prom scene from an unmade John Hughes movie.
However, it was a theatrical performance of “Victoria M.”, followed by a finale of “Way II War” and “Love Delay”, that stole hearts. What resounded in the small tent that night could have been felt around the world. It felt historic, watching such a diverse array of romanticism, disgust, euphoria and snarling bravado intermingle so organically. Man and machine become one, eyes are fixed upon a triumphant figure holding a guitar aloft, a thrashing crowd falls in love over and over again.
An encore followed, a solo performance of forever-to-be-unreleased, yet crowd-encompassing tune referred to as “The Toddler”, followed by a collaboration between Kirin J Callinan and Alex Cameron called “Big Enough”. Watching two artists, who have dominated and elevated Australian music for the better, intertwine and profess such a profound musical impact, was a moment that softened the blow that this event would be over.
We, the people, did not deserve this. The boisterously drunk crowd who consistently heckled a figure as unique as Mr. Callinan felt inappropriate. But the man wore it, persevering and still putting on one of the best shows many in attendance have undoubtedly seen. The whole thing is visionary, and unprecedentedly fantastic. There are no words to describe the greatness of Kirin J Callinan’s live show that wouldn’t develop as understatements.
All that can be said is this…thank you. For putting up with the distractions, for persisting, for strutting a sinewy frame into oblivion, and back. For the enchanting music, the glorious strobes, the brutally honest and dark revelations that are shared so openly. For the clanging clashes of contradiction that allow something so completely new to be formed. For re-imagining our Australian landscape, in much the same way that The Drones, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Jack Ladder have, and turning an eye onto what we were blind to before. For mixing surreal entertainment, fanatic reverie and pure originality into a cocktail stirred by the gnashing mouth of the beast.