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Sydney Festival Live Review: Kirin J Callinan - The Aurora (15.01.15)

Sydney artist Kirin J Callinan was at his idiosyncratic best as his transformed The Aurora, a pop up spiegeltent as part of Sydney Festival, into a late-night rock-rave of throbbing 80s electronica and clangy industrial rock. The very slick, very confident performer speaks in a low growl-slash-whisper when he addresses the crowd, almost as if he's trying to impersonate Christian Bale in The Dark Knight, flirting with his fans in a wholly entertaining, often uncomfortable and always hilarious way.

His cult-like following have no problem obliging his ostentatious presence, often calling back one-liners just as sleazy and continuing the playful, flirtatious dialogue that fills the small pockets of space between songs.

The songs themselves are mostly taken from his much adored debut album Embracicism, given weight by his move from a sole performer to a frontman of a touring band, the members of which sway slowly behind him in the shadows as they tinker away on everything from loud, aggressive drums to strange SFX-driving gadgets which look similar to video game remotes.

Where electronica floats into the air, Kirin J cuts through it and turns it into a swarm of jagged, sharp sounds with his electrifying guitar work, driven by his fancy footwork on dozens and dozens of effect peddles as he quickly sheds his wry and becomes a highly enthused and studious performer. There seems to be a split personality in there, but Kirin J is such a good actor that the transformation is seamless.

The pointy sounds of "Shake It Out" recline over jilted electronica; the general weirdness of playground bullying comes out in stutters for "Embracicism"; and new song "Teacher", which he debuted at the show, sucked Kirin's monstrous side away for a poignant piano ballad, before throwing out waves of dance-minded disco. The man is a clever craftmanship when it comes to the tales within these songs, taking attention away from the music at times and focusing on his blunt, to-the-point storytelling, giving you another dimension to the performance to keep you engaged until the breathless finish that seems to be as hypnotic for himself as it is for us.

An interesting performance is always expected when heading along to see Kirin J Callinan, but something about him being away from Sydney for a while, and finally coming back, pushed him to give us just that extra bit of magic that made the after-hours show all the more special, furthering our love for this man and his meaningful work.

Kirin J Callinan performed as part of Sydney Festival, more information and remaining Sydney Festival events can be found HERE

Headline image supplied by Sydney Festival and credited to Prudence Upton