What words can begin to describe the pure R&B, soul, garage rock experience that King Khan & his Sensational Shrines bring to the stage. After a two year absence, Arish Ahmad Khan, better known as King Khan, returned to Chicago’s Bottom Lounge with the same energy (and costumes) we’ve come to expect from this theatrical band. Of course, Midwest Action was there.
Chicago locals, and champions of loud, fast noise-pop, Heavy Times, opened up the evening. Their sound is hard to pin a genre on, but you can certainty dance to it like you’re at a punk rock club, and it’s damn catchy.
Even with the high energy, and skillfully crafted songs, the crowd was reluctant to even tap their feet. That didn’t stop a few of us in the front from going a little wild. Heavy Times’ live show is something to be experienced; it’s what sets them apart from the rest of the Chicago music scene and into something truly special to watch.
Taking the stage next was the Canadian/New York based band, Hellshovel. You might assume from the name that you are in for some kind of “blank” metal (fill in the blank with whatever you want, ie: speed, thrash, black, etc.) What the band delivered, however, were catchy pop melodies and fuzzed out vintage guitars.
The band feels as though they jumped right out of the ’60s garage pop movement, and they do an amazing job emulating that era. Psychedelic elements find their way into their songs in the form of phaser and tremolo guitar effects and, of course, a healthy dose of reverb. A perfect compliment to King Khan and his garage rock vibe, they surely helped set the mood for what was to come.
Backtracking for a moment. Myself and fellow MWA writer, Dan Fiorio, started the evening a bit worried. About 15 minutes before the first band was slated to go on, we were the only two people in the room. Getting there early had its benefits though when we (almost literally) ran into Mr. Khan at his merch table. He greeted us in his street clothes with a hearty handshake and thanked us for coming.
Luckily, by the time the first two acts had finished, the room had filled up behind us. The crowd in front shared stories of previous King Khan gigs up until the band filtered onto the stage one-by-one. They warmed up the crowd with a nice instrumental introduction until their charismatic front man made his way onto the stage in style, out of his street clothes and with a gold suit jacket on.
The band played through a healthy set of their hits, new and old, playing everything from their early classics to the prime cuts from their latest album, Idle No More, their first release in the last five years.
Khan and his Shrines showed no sign of slowing down even after experiencing some rough years in between the recording their last two albums. The set included the new track “So Wild”, a song dedicated to the late great friend & garage punk hero Jay Reatard.
After a solid set, the band left the stage and waited for the traditional encore chant. They sent out a man with a wide range of noise makers in the interim, encouraging the already raucous crowd to get louder and louder.
The man of the hour returned to the stage, complete with a new wig and a cape. The gold suit from earlier was replaced with his usual skimpy gold underwear that made it hard to stop yourself from occasionally looking into his shiny crotch.
The Chicago gig completed the band’s Midwestern tour dates, but if you’re on the East coast expect them in New York and Philadelphia this week. Check out the full tour details via the official website below and check out the new album Idle No More, available wherever fine (and not-so-fine) music is sold.
LIVE PHOTOS BY DAN JARVIS