By Wal Reid
Date / Venue: Wednesday January 7th, Whammy Bar, Auckland
It's fair to say that Kirin J Callinan is an acquired taste, his Industrial grating guitar riffing and screaming banshee like vocals do not resonate with all, allegedly he induced an epileptic fit in an audience member at one of his shows. It's the sort of press money can't buy but the crowd were here to see Mr "Embracism", who accompanied by the equally talented and tad less controversial Jack Ladder warmed up the crowd with a small but mesmerising JL sample set.
Songs from his albums Love Is Gone and Hurtsville were eagerly gobbled up with Ladder commenting on the unbearable heat in the venue "we're saturated", while Callanin mentioned that they "looked like a couple of chicken nuggets waiting to be eaten". It was warm peoples resplendent against the neatly laid out collection of various effects pedals, the Sydney-sider commented saying he nearly did the set acapella after his pedals were stolen after a taxi drove off with them inside. Lucky he scored more for the gig, he's seriously thinking about tweeting out the taxi company involved.
Callanin has a unique voice, think Nick Cave, James Blake (holdup JB fans) or Shane McGowan but with more tart, sharp and pungent, nowhere more evident than on the songs Halo and Come On USA. Callanin is at home playing live, his stage his office and his audience his waiting room as he reveals his concealed visage on the excellent Embracism (crying listening to Springsteen) before toning it down on the reflective Landslide.
Older track Thighs is resurrected as a request, while Callanin leaves his guitar for an acapella crowd sing-a-long on Toddler; a tune penned with Ladder after flying home to Sydney next to a lady relating a story about her niece & nephew named Bundy & Cola. Shit gets weird but ends on a high note with Callanin & Ladder ushering the end with Willie Nelson's 'To All The Girls I've Loved Before' a fitting tribute to end the perfect hump-day.
It's a highly entertaining show, musically and visually. Callanin's sharp wit, audience rapport and glimpse into his dark places more than make up for the grandeur onstage antics of most artists. If you end up going to a Kirin J Callanin gig, be prepared to receive a free beer as Callanin justifies as "not to be a mess" & feign laughter when he mentions the joke about why women can't reverse. Best gig of 2015 thus far.