Taimane Gardner hosted a new-age celebration Friday night, inviting Honolulu to come along.
The 27-year-old performer has been making an impression as a performer since she was 6 years old, playing on the sidewalks in Waikiki, and she developed many of her signature sounds and moves in her early days. She has always been a charismatic performer, leaning in to strum the ukulele, and displaying her affinity for music that bridges the gap between Led Zeppelin and Beethoven, grass roots and new age.
“I love to perform, and I love to use all parts of my body,” Taimane told the Star-Advertiser before the show. That was evident during the performance, and especially during the first part of the show, when she presented her “greatest hits” for an audience that might not all be familiar with her signature songs and style.
She was lithe and expressive during this segment, which recapped her history, with performances of surf rock (“Miserlou,” “Wipeout”), music from “Carmen” and “Phantom of the Opera,” and a “Planet Medley” of atmospheric, psychedelic pop, punctuated by poetic introductions from spoken word artist Kealoha and a beautiful aerial performance by Andrea Torres, whose precise and emotive work was a highlight of the evening.
TAIMANE appeared on stage with a band: Jonathan Heraux, percussionist; Jazzy Jazz, guitar and vocals; Amber Crago, vocals; Wendi Mayhugh, violin and Jake Staron, cello. These musicians helped create an atmospheric, uplifting show, with ethereal vocals and dynamic beats.
She was dynamic and compelling, winning over her audience with her innocent, whimsical presentation and captivating physical approach. “It’s a workout going on,” Kealoha exclaimed, with good reason.
Her performance on the ukulele was often powerful and speedy, and at other times understated and gentle. Posturing like a rock star, and making frequent eye contact with the audience, she kept the audience involved and on her side.
After an intermission, Taimane took the stage to present her new act: “Elements.” This was divided into segments: “Atlantis”; “Water”; “Fire”; “Air”; “Mother (Earth).” Joining her were a coterie of flamboyant performers: a trio of contemporary dancers; including a man wearing the same flowing gown as his female partners; a pair of tango dancers; lion dancers from Au’s Shaolin Arts Society.
The connotations stretched from Hawaiian mythology to Honolulu’s historic Chinatown to cutting-edge Brooklyn. The influence of arts center Ong King, a safe harbor for experimental performance and art, was very much in evidence.
As the evening drew to a close, Kealoha introduced a segment by characterizing one of the elements as “chaos,” or “ether” — “commonly referred to as space.” Taimane’s production was not truly chaotic (nor should it have been, as a stage show) but it did transmit the surprising, mysterious spirit of newly discovered frontiers. There were a couple of small glitches — a buzz in the sound system; a misstep in the transition between songs — but for the most part, the audience was carried along by Taimane’s adventurous music and spirit.
Taimane has said that her ideas for music in the show often came to her from dreams. With this show, she shared those dreams with a receptive Honolulu audience, leaving many in the Hawaii Theatre eager to see what she’ll dream up next.