When King Khan visited Siberia in April, he brought only a drummer for his two-man punk outfit The Barbecue Show. He wore no shirt and a raucous crowd moshed and rubbed his damp belly, and the whole venue seemed like it would combust. Last Wednesday night, King Khan returned to Siberia but was accompanied by seven other members of his Sensational Shrines, swopping out a more metal sound for soul and psychedelic rock, but still spiriting the same loud energy that prevailed in his last visit.
King Khan and the Shrines are an ironic, but gifted rendition of a contemporary soul band with all the necessary attitude and instruments, including multiple percussionists and horns. Khan, formerly of the Spaceshifts, is an intentionally ostentatious showman, and he began the set wearing a red sharkskin suit straight out of Robert DeNiro's wardrobe in Casino. On stage, King Khan seemed frenetically possessed by all the happy gods of garage rock subgenres. When singing, he runs full speed along his own imagined spectrum between soul and punk, wooing the crowd with smooth Otis Redding-imitative spirit before erupting into primal soul-metal screaming like he did in "I Wanna Be a Girl." The results are not for the idle-footed. The band followed him everywhere sonically, and when King Khan turned up the volume they gathered more noise behind him and then altogether would tiptoe back towards Motown to slow it down again and give our heart rates a moment's rest with songs like "On a Brass Bed."
The band seemed to find its confluential nexus of all things rock in "Land of the Freak" when they merged their already strong psychedelic soul sound with surf rock. It felt like a thematic flag song of the band with its fast screamy style and tight fits of planned noise made by mashing organs, scratchy guitars, and coordinated backup horns. It's a band that likes to crowd the sound, but they did so with the professional spirit of practiced musicians who have a lot of fun on stage. They thrived on the volley of energy with the crowd, playing songs across their discography, including from their recently released LP Idle No More.
After less than an hour the band left the stage and confused the audience. Were they taking a set break? Are they tired or just lazy, or is it getting late (they started after 1 a.m.)? The answer was simpler: King Khan was changing outfits. He burst back onto the stage in a jeweled cape, a black-haired curly wig and his naked belly commanding the energy of the audience. They played another four songs and finished with a long bout of discordant noise, highlighted by organist Frederic Bourdil placing his keyboard on top of the heads of audience members and then surfing on it while playing keys with his feet. The set was quick, but perhaps it's indicative of how good a band is live when it's 2:30 in the morning and you're upset that the show is over. - Samuel Nelson