Photos by Ignacio Genzon.
Touring on the heels of their first kiss with Vice Records, the brother-from-an-Indian-mother King Khan led his keyboard, guitar, bass, brass, rhythm, and booty section through a dozen or so tracks off of their new compilation album, The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines, as well as a Spits cover and a rendition of Bowie's “Rebel Rebel,” in the uncomfortably crowded Echo last night. King Khan, a French-Canadian of Indian decent currently residing in Berlin with his growing family of rug rats, usually tours the U.S. with his Canadian counterpart and former Spaceshits band mate BBQ (alias Mark Sultan) as The King Khan and BBQ Show, which has deservedly garnered him a large fan base in North America. King Khan and the Shrines, though, have been playing mainly Europe, until the recent backing of Vice enabled Khan to ship his world-spread band on an American tour; so most of the material on the new record has been released before, but not heard live by KK & BBQ-loving rock n' rollers on this side of the globe. King Khan & The Shrines put up a gonzo-soul act in the tradition of James Brown, Otis Redding, and the Sun Ra Arkestra, and take it to a level that is either extreme emulation or poignant satire, depending on the tune.
My favorite track on Supreme Genius, “Took My Lady To Dinner”–which clearly falls into the latter category, was left off the play list, unfortunately. The lyrics make me crack up every time I hear them (“My baby's sooo fat and ugly”). But the Shrines made high energy feats of “Tell Me,” and “Land of the Freak,” which, with their heavy saxophone and trumpet funkadelics, are two of the most heavily Stax-referential songs on the record. “Welfare Bread,” previously released on the 2007 Hazelwood Records full-length What Is?!, is so smooth and mellow, harkening Joe Tex/Marvin Gaye-style cool, it makes me wonder if people are actually listening to the lyrics, which, again, make me crack up in a way some people actually living on welfare may think is inappropriate: “You don’t have to pay your bills anymore/You can just eat my welfare bread.” Dressed in a cape and sparkly mask (think Blowfly), Khan’s crowning achievement was his signature Shrines call-and-response break about re-entering his lover’s vagina in an attempt to be reborn. Although the motivation of his gospel doesn’t change, Khan’s description modified from previous recordings of the whole-body rebirth sermon: after he finally got his other leg in, the line of the night was “And let me tell ya’, it was all beach. No sand, allll beach.”