Twenty years following the departure of their original organist in 1999, Kula Shaker released their sixth LP, First Congregational Church of Eternal Love and Free Hugs, which can best be described as their most vital album since 1999’s Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts. Towards the end of 2022, Jay Darlington was back with Kula Shaker and played live with them at Shepherds Bush Empire in London.
This was no one-off. The new, original line-up has returned to the studio to record album seven, and this gig at the 300-capacity legendary 100 Club was an opportunity to showcase some of these new songs. Several live staples in a set order are inevitable, and unsurprisingly, following an extended intro, “Hey Dude” opened the set. Predictably, “Sound of Drums” followed. Predictability is not the absence of passion. These songs did not mechanically go through the motions. As a result, the crowd embraced them as if they were witnessing a collective revelation.
From tradition and ritual came new material. Following “Sound of Drums”, the new song “Gaslighting” describes how “the revolution will be live-streamed.” The latest single, “Waves”, came next, and with enthusiasm and passion, the audience sang along, which evidenced this band’s continued relevance. Other new songs instantly captivated the crowd included “Indian Record Player” and “Natural Magick”, which stood out with its funky bass sound. This song was perfect despite not having a bass drum.
From new songs came a rarity, ‘2 Styx’, which was featured on the US version of K2.0. The UK audience cheering after the closure of this exciter proves that, like “the infinite sun”, Kula Shaker fans are all one and can transcend geography and enjoy everything Kula Shaker has to offer.
Kula Shaker passionately played several other classics, including “303” and “Tattva”, and, in line with tradition, performed “Hush” before the encore. As expected, an extended version of “Govinda” played out the set that featured Johnny Kalsi, who added spirit with the dhol drum.
Kula Shaker demonstrated that one can indulge loyal and dedicated fans by playing early classics whilst evolving their sound with new songs that become embraced, as opposed to just tolerated by fans as the price to pay to hear the songs that remind them of their youth. If you thought the band had peaked musically with 2022’s First Congregational Church of Eternal Love and Free Hugs, based on the new songs played, it is undeniable that Kula Shaker still has more to offer.