This was an ass-tonishing spectacle! King Khan and the Shrines are troupers and the King’s description of them as “the hardest working band in showbiz” seems the most fitting use for that particular cliché. They manage to turn a London audience into a sea of transvestite-appreciating, booty-shaking freaks in the course of 90 minutes of music inspired by Motown r’n’b, Southern soul, psych and garage-rock, delivered with musical precision but also with tongue in cheek. The King is the centre of attention, as any tubby Asian-Canadian standing front and centre in feathered crown, baggy underpants and cape would be, but his nifty band are just as eye-boggling, with their choreographed horn section moves, and the way that Frederic Bourdil frequently plays in the crowd, his keyboard balanced on the heads of the audience. And at the end, when the band are pulling outrageous poses during a Sun Ra style closer, the tenor sax player is wailing madly, perched unsteadily on the speaker stack. A cardiac-arresting spectacle!
The songs have a rabble-rousing catchiness, encouraging audience participation on the strangely romantic ‘Took My Baby To Dinner’ – “she’s fat and she’s ugly but I love her!” – and ‘I Wanna Be A Girl’. For all his pretend macho bravado, His Highness is really a feminist, sending up male lust. The Shrines cherrypick songs from their canon (not for nothing is one album called The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines), including the awesome garage soul tune ‘Bite My Tongue’ (from current platter Idle No More), the King’s tribute to Jay Retard ‘So Wild’, and the storming garage-punk of ‘No Regrets’. It’s always pure pleasure when the court of the King is in session - a night of rock’n’roll salvation.
Support comes from Dracula Legs, a band from Canada, Wales and Essex whose garage rock is infested with a Bad Seeds darkness that would give you second thoughts about joining them down a dark alley. The singer has a growly croon like a pissed-off grizzly (he’s the Canuck) while the guitars howl as if they’re being sharpened for combat. They’re a watchable band (I make a mental note to steal the singer’s Ian-Curtis-in-reverse dance moves) and a musically exciting one – check out Too Pure single ‘Heartburn Destination’/ ‘Cold Licks’ for evidence.