Kirin J Callinan Kings Arms July 20, 2017


Kirin J Callinan claims he is a different man than when he last performed in Auckland  back in January of 2015. That may be, but he is still a riveting performer…mercurial, unpredictable, a bit shambolic, but always entertaining.

Callinan’s first LP, 2013’s Embracism, found the Aussie entertainer mining the same musical terrain as The Birthday Party or, perhaps, latter-day Scott Walker. His new album, Bravado, is full of 80s-inspired synth tunes and EDM beats….but it still beats with a rock and roll heart.

So, of course, when Kirin appeared on stage at The Kings Arms one would fully expect him to be decked out in a cowboy hat and wearing spurs, right?

It’s clear that Kirin J Callinan is determined to go is own way, musical expectations be damned.

And that’s what makes his shows so enjoyable.

Despite the change in musical direction on Bravado, Kirin and his 2-piece band (keys & drums), sounded not that much different from previous shows…just a little more banging for your buck at times.

I arrived a bit late…this was the same night as the opening of the NZ Film Festival, and Kirin had already run through a handful of tunes. I caught the beginning of Live Each Day, and standout track from Bravado in which Callinan address his love for a sandwich, among other simple pleasures.

This was followed by a very enthusiastically-received S.A.D. (Song About Drugs).

But a Kirin J Callinan show is as much about what happens between the songs as during them.

Kirin often takes long breaks between tunes to engage with the crowd and tell stories…or muck about with his efx pedals.

During the course of the set he struggled to understand the Kiwi accent as audience members shouted out to him (he acknowledged that he enjoys hearing requests although he refuses to play any).

After Love Delay he took his time thanks a list of friends and then threw his sweat-soaked shirt into the crowd.

Then, after a mighty rendition of The Toddler, he told us how he almost missed his flight from Sydney, borrowing a stranger’s car at the last minute to drive from the Blue Mountains.

Later we learned that he once got scabies in New Zealand, but that happened in Wellington, so not to worry, Auckland.

By the end of the night all three musicians were shirtless and rocking, with Down 2 Hang a definite highlight of the encore. No matter what he’s wearing (or not wearing), Kirin J Callinan proves once again that he is a performer not to be missed.

Marty Duda

Kirin J Callinan set list (partial)

  1. My Moment
  2. Embracism
  3. Come On USA
  4. Family Home
  5. Live Each Day
  6. A.D.
  7. Bravado
  8. Love Delay
  9. The Toddler
  10. Landslide
  11. Down 2 Hang
  12. The Edge
  13. Big Enough
  14. Apology Accepted