Gig Review: Kirin J Callinan | Melbourne | 9.8.19

Monday, August 12, 2019

Kirin J Callinan is one of Australia's most polarising talents — though mainstream Australian culture is quick to write him off without closely listening to his music, Callinan is arguably one of our best ever storytellers. The release of his brand new album Return to Center was much more lowkey than his prior releases and there weren't any controversies associated with the release. Friday night at Melbourne's Croxton Bandroom saw fans treated to a memorable performance featuring sounds of new and old by the man himself.

Callinan performed his soundcheck and placed down his own setlist whilst dressed in a white robe. His set-up was minimal yet intimate. He was the only person in his band, and featuring side of the stage was a sound tech. Ironically, the guitar Callinan was playing wasn't his own as he broke his during rehearsals earlier in the day and had to borrow it from local Northcote music shop Echo Tone, which is reminiscent of Callinan's method of creating Return to Center.

He started his show wearing a costume that looked like it was straight out of a renaissance fair. Before playing, he also began by thanking various venue workers, including the front-of-house staff, merch desk, ticketing, his sound tech for the night, and a few others, providing an individual chant for each person. After thanking everyone, he noted, "sincerely, and most importantly, the show couldn't happen without me."

The initial portion of his performance included 'The Homosexual', which he performed whilst looking like a nun, the soaring sounds of 'My Moment' and 'Embracism'. Callinan admitted that he wanted to get the latter two tracks out of the way so he could start the show. After this came the all-consuming and majestic sounds of 'Life Is Life', which was a definite highlight of the night. 

As the show progressed, he played an enthralling mix of new and old songs, including 'The Whole of the Moon', 'Bravado', Landslide', and 'Rise'. Before playing 'You Weren't in Love with Me', he shared that he had a fantasy where the audience slowly files out whilst he's performing, leaving no-one left in the room to applaud him and he hoped to reenact it. After this, he contemplated whether it was possible to have the entire crowd on the stage and him on the floor. He opted for a traditional encore instead and returned from a break to play an acapella version of 'S.A.D.' and the ever-so-mighty 'Big Enough'. He concluded the show with another acapella, this time with an eccentric performance of 'The Toddler'. 

Callinan presented a show that was incredibly intimate yet entertaining. He's a true performer and despite staying away from controversy in recent times, he's as daring as ever. 

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)
Photos by Kristy Smolcic (folio)

Read our interview with Kirin J Callinan from June 2019 here

Listen to Return To Center:

Watch 'You Weren't In Love With Me':