King Khan & the Shrines at Brighton

Having expectations when going to a King Khan show is downright unreasonable. They’ll exceed, confuse, and scream away what you were thinking about when you came in. All you need to know is when you get a trumpet, a baritone sax, bongos, a drumkit, two guitars, a keyboard, a bass, and a King onstage, you’re going to have a good time… and probably have a beer or two thrown at you for solidarity’s sake.

Arish “King” Khan has been performing in punk bands since the late nineties in his home country of Canada (born to Indian and Canadian parents) and has circulated through a numbers of bands since—beginning with the Spacesh**s, King Khan and BBQ Show (no longer performing as of 2010), and currently with King Khan and the Shrines, he has the experience, friends, and passion to throw a hell of a show. Notorious for racy onstage antics earlier in his career, the King is now a husband and father of two in Berlin and leaves it to the audience to create in the insane ruckus (they don’t disappoint) while he brings the costume, the screams, and the killer music. This past Monday night at the Brighton Music Hall was perfect evidence of this, and the Shrines didn’t disappoint.

The Shrines straddle the line somewhere between punk, soul, and psychedelic, and all three were well-represented in Monday night’s crowd. Two dollar PBRs flew in the front as the punk rockers moshed through now-classic tracks from 2009’s Supreme Genius of King Khan while the soul and funk fans filled the back of the room, grooving and screaming as it struck them. The crowd’s diversity worked well, and Khan acknowledged the quite a bit through the performance—in his magnificent feathered headdress and sequined top, he looked like David Bowie met the native Americans and they threw on a Wilson Pickett record. The Shrines were dressed in black and equally alive, all jack-knife kicks and keyboard lifts as the group powered through over an hour on stage.

It was beyond exciting to hear the group’s 2012 single “Bite My Tongue” played live, and Khan hinted to further new tracks (and dare we hint album?) in the works, but most of the set was comprised of Supreme Genius scream sessions, notable “Took My Lady to Dinner”, “Land of the Freak”, and “Shivers Down the Spine”. Brass and keys break the punk mold through it all, but heavy guitar (sometimes played by Khan himself) and bass ground the sound as something all its own. “Welfare Bread” threw the crowd into an insane, jumping pulse that continued with the thoroughly funky “Keep It Simple Stupid” (from The King Khan Experience), “Pickin’ Up the Trash” from 2004’s Mr. Supernatural, and a cover from one of Khan’s closest friends and punk’s brightest stars, Jay Reatard.

After forty-five minutes, the band cleared the stage for the night for Boston sax legend Steve Baer who mellowed the audience with ten minutes of alto saxophone gone psychedelic trance through audio distortion. An audience member nearby was heard commenting, “Who’s that guy in the sequin blanket playing? What?” He paused a moment, shrugged, and started dancing—if King Khan approved, he was fine with it, and Baer was cheered as the band returned for an encore. This time the frontman was clad in nothing but a golden cape, spandex sequined undies and a black Cleopatra wig, and the audience couldn’t get enough. Baer played with the group for the finale and the audience was left baffled as the lights went up—yes, that actually happened. King Khan and the Shrines reign supreme, and that’s because they live in a world all their own.

By Jamie Loftus

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