Kula Shaker - O2 Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Kula Shaker - O2 Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham

by Mark Steele Rating: Release Date:

A slight chilly and damp night or some may have recalled a gloomy Monday provided the remedy needed setting in Birmingham, namely The O2 Institute, Digbeth. There was a much jovial expectation from the people piling into the venue, for Kula Shaker's 20th Anniversary Tour to celebrate their iconic debut Album 'K'. The venue staff were friendly and warmed the atmosphere up at the well-known venue, for what was ahead as a memorable and nostalgic evening.

Support was provided by classic/blues rock trio, Rudy Warman and The Heavy Weather. Sporting long wild hair, Mountie/Scout leader hats and an anxious enthusiasm to play rock'n' roll, they tore through their set of 1970's southern rock which fleeted between early ZZ Top and Aerosmith. They indeed managed to thaw out a few bopping spectators, though some looked bedazzled as though they had not seen this style of rock before.

The time arrived for Kula Shaker to enter the stage to a full venue to the soundtrack of conch shells, tanpura drone, and a choral mantra, accompanied by screams, whistles, and much applause, it was looking promising already amongst the readied mature crowd. Once they primed their instruments, a stomping sound of drums and the other instruments prepared an almost advancing march straight into a spirited run of The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band'. This quickly moved to a short and snappy 'Let Love B', both of which the crowd cheerily responded accordingly. A cheerful Crispian Mills then thanked all for attending the '20th Anniversary Party' and then produced a vinyl copy of the K album, proceeding to advise that Side A was to be played first, but first we all needed to open a time portal to bring 1996 back into the environment, the countdown occurred using some crowd co-operation and additional great op-art vortex visuals.

They fired off the celebrations with 'Hey Dude' full of youthful mettle, the same which brought them initial recognition for their live performances all those years ago. This moved into 'Knight On The Town', immediately thrusting the room into joyful elation, plenty of smiles and pogoing, Paul Winterhart particularly was revving the engines up a treat with an intense pace. With 'Temple Of Everlasting Light', the crowd had become toasted, as a general warmth began to spread around the room. The dancing that ensued through the freaky funker 'Smart Dogs', was really bringing the party atmosphere to a participatory level for all. Bass player,Alonza Bevan, switched over to piano assist Keysmeister, Harry Broadbent, on strings for the melancholic 'Magic Theatre'. The last song of Side A was announced by Crispian, as 'Into The Deep' evidently initiating a heartfelt crowd singalong to the weaving melody and it's "Fly Brother Fly" chorus line.

Crispian again presented the vinyl copy of K, stating that Side B was about to begin, yet they played two B-Sides before commencing the rest of the album. Firstly, the strong riffage on 'Under The Hammer', here it is fair to say Crispian appeared with his guitar as a Vedic take on Thor, wielding the mighty Mjolnir around the room and back again, accompanied by the band members pelting thunder and lightning aplenty. The second B-Side, we were advised, was a George Harrison borrowed guitar riff, re-worked into the lively stomper 'Gokula', and they somehow snook in the devotional song 'Shower Your Love' from their second album.

The rest of the album continued via 'Sleeping Jiva', and  'Naryan/Tattva', which loomed and brooded about the room, yet they began to unveil an essence or evoke realisation of the all-pervading 'force', as Crispian played The Force Theme from Star Wars. Applause after applause occurred, when 'Grateful When You're Dead/Jerry Was There' gut bucket thumped it's way into the clearing, with an interesting reference by Crispian to 'what is real or just a pantomime on TV', was certainly topical.
The groovy moves on offer by the crowd resulted from further psych-movers, '303' and 'Start All Over'. By the time 'Hollow Man Parts 1&2'  were in session, many were seemingly loved-up in a cosmically enhanced daze by the vibrations released, also it was a bit of a needed breather and release, a roaring crescendo finalised the album set. Big screams and whistles, demanded more, so back came the band for the encore and blasted through the freak-out inducer 'Hush', '33 Crows', 'infinite Sun' and the prophetic 'Great Hosannah'. Yet it was not a Kula Shaker concert without all voices and swaying together as though in pocket-Vrindavan on the bhajan 'Govinda'. Huge applause from the crowd and also a grateful acknowledgment from the band confirmed that the night was filled with many colours.

A great celebration of a great album, which certainly was memorable for the longtime fans and showed a band with a renewed energy that could possibly go another 20 years.

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