LIVE REVIEW: King Khan & The Shrines

I invited absolutely everybody I know to the King Khan show on Wednesday. I know it was $20, but we’re talking about King Khan for the love of god, and on the night before Halloween, no less. Did this combination of factors sound appealing only to me? Would no one join me in bouncing to the tunes of a half-naked band in golden capes?

No. They would not.

Well, I cared not.

King Khan and The Shrines is one of those bands I’d always wanted to see live. Mostly because they have an unblemished reputation of delivering one kickass performance, all the while wrapped in ridiculous costumes. What more could anybody want? The band is currently touring to promote their latest LP Idle No More, which came out on Merge Records in early September.

The opening band was Canadian four-piece Hellshovel, who, as I later found out, have a pretty established list of releases. They were a good fit for the opening slot: talented musically, very much into their set, and loud. Hellshovel had a very classic sound somewhere between stoner rock and early metal, and their harmonies were spot-on.

In between groups was DJ Jonathan Toubin, who was massaging the Halloween novelty by playing a selection of eerie ’60s tracks, horror punk, and fright-night inspired classics. The whole show was well curated for King Khan fans.

The Shrines did a great job of tossing in some tracks from the new release (“Bite My Tongue” for instance) while playing all the early gems the audience was eager to hear (“Land of the Freak”, “Took My Lady to Dinner”, etc.). The King waltzed out on stage in a slick purple suit like the boss he is and screeched and preached the whole show through. The Shrines were no less enthused, and performed mid-audience as much as they did on the actual stage.

The best thing about King Khan and The Shrines is that while they’re a ball live, look funny in spandex, and sing about a grab-bag of silly things, at the end of the day they’re a great band. How many party bands can play tightly as a nine-piece funk/soul/scuzz-rock ensemble complete with horns, craft catchy and well-written pop-songs and put on a blast of a show? I can’t really name any.

On top of their musical dexterity, The Shrines have codified a tight-knit group of fans that are some of the most welcoming people to be with at a show alone. Three songs and two beers into the set I was dancing with the whole floor of Shrine worshippers, and that sense of communal fun-having is a rare and special thing. I will say the crowd was less rowdy than I expected, but the dancing certainly didn’t disappoint.

For the band’s encore, King Khan pulled a costume change, stripping down to black wrestling undies with a glittering codpiece, a bedazzled cape, and Cleopatra wig. They played around three more songs, and we were all very appreciative.

I’m downright sorry if you missed this show, but then again, I probably invited you.

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