The Maharajah of Soul: King Khan

When King Khan AKA Black Snake AKA The Maharaja of Soul, and his Shrines take the stage, there’s an unmistakable excitement in the air. As the lights dim and the droning, mystic music fades in with endless fog and smoke, it seems as if a wizard is mounting the stage. When the lights turn on and front and center is a man wearing a cheetah print sports coat and a feather head dress, carrying some sort of voodoo shaman’s cane, you know it’ll be a show not quite like anything you’ve seen, and it is.

Starting off with “Land of the Freak”, King Khan and the Shrines immediately won over the crowd, every band member seeming 100% into the music and completely genuine in their excitement. Khan as a front man is perfect: rock n roll sneer, soul moves, warm and witty banter and total devotion to the live show. Jumping in and out of the crowd all night, Khan and the guitarist and bassist seemed really excited to be playing and never missed a beat; everything sounded perfect.

Joining Khan on center stage was a dancer, dressed like a semi-burlesque cheerleader, with pom-poms and all, who never faltered and provided impressively constant moves and energy.

As a live show, Khan and co. knew exactly how to pace themselves and played a set that started strong (“Land of the Freak”, “I Wanna Be a Girl”, a song with BBQ AKA Mark Sultan, which I didn’t know the name of, “Le Fils du Jacques Dutronc”) got a bit softer (“Welfare Bread”, “69 Faces of Love”) and then got into some erotic gospel (you have to see it to know what I mean) and ended with some serious light show freak out jams. The encore began with Suicide’s “Ghostrider” and just got better, with Khan returning to stage wearing a mask kind of like MF Doom’s, no shirt and a cape.

Overall, the best mid-sized show I’ve seen in ages. Perfect song choices, great audience rapport, amazing energy exhibited by every member of the band (the keyboard/organ player was constantly lifting up the keyboard and falling over while holding and playing), and just the kind of perfect rock ‘n roll spectacle that makes you wish you were around for James Brown’s heyday. If you get the chance, go see King Khan and the Shrines, there’s no show quite like it.