With over 25 years of being, Kula Shaker has built live staples guaranteed to enchant and exhilarate fans old and new. As has become a tradition, the four-piece opened with “Hey Dude”, which instantly gained audience attention and excitement. “Sound of Drums”, the highest charting single from Kula Shaker’s sophomore LP, Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts, followed.
With the positive reception to the Alexandra Palace Theatre set, were Kula Shaker going to just cut and paste for Shepherds Bush? “Not on your nelly”, to quote the clergyman voiced by frontman Crispian Mills on Kula Shaker’s current album 1st Congregational Church Of Eternal Love And Free Hugs. This Shepherds Bush Empire was no dull affair and was a befitting tribute to John Lennon, who died exactly 42 years to the day of this gig.
The first unexpected and pleasant surprise came from guest Jane Stanness, the voice of the supporting choir mistress for the clergyman, who introduced support band Johnny Kalsi and The Dhol Foundation whilst displaying witty humour. Then Crispian brought it to the crowd’s attention that on the left side of the stage, another person, instead of Harry Broadbent, was playing the organ. This man was Kula Shaker’s “Wizard in a blizzard” with long coloured hair and a beard – Jay Darlington, the original organist featured on Kula Shakers’ first two albums.
As well as playing “Whatever It is (I’m Against It)”, “Gingerbread Man” and “Farewell Beautiful Dreamer” from their new album – which were as well received as K classics, Kula Shaker played four new songs including a John Lennon cover of “Gimme Some Truth” and politically driven original songs “Gaslight” and “Taxes”. The interest and reception to these songs was a fascinating spectacle. Few bands on the wrong side of three decades old can command such enthusiasm for new, untested material. Other modern classics, including “Infinite Sun” from 2016’s K2.0, ensnared the audience. As Mills sang, “We are one in the infinite Sun”, the crowd responded each time without prompting “fly like an eagle”.
From introducing new material, Kula Shaker knew which classics to include, from “Song of Love / Narayana” to “Hush” and “Tattva”, “303”, “Grateful When You’re Dead / Jerry Was There”, and “Into The Deep”. Following the encore after “Hush”, Kula Shaker paid tribute to George Harrison with their B-side “Gokula”, which borrowed riffs from Harrison’s “Skiing”. When “Govinda” followed, the audience assumed, as with tradition, this would be the finale. However, not only did Johnny Kalsi join the stage to create a unique and powerful rendition of this classic, but “Govinda” was not the playout song. By complementing two Beatles members, Kula Shaker paid homage to the entire band by playing “I Saw Her Standing There”.
Kula Shaker demonstrated that they could continue to enchant all fans without being beholden to songs from a specific career segment. Very few bands have the charisma and ability to persuade their early fans to join them on new adventures beyond their earlier hits, but Kula Shaker certainly does.
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