Kula Shaker - Guildhall, Gloucester

by Mark Steele Rating:9 Release Date:2013-04-08

It has been two months since the release of Kula Shaker's fifth album; K 2.0. The vedic psych rockers have already toured europe plus a few Uk dates to much acclaim. Another boon of generosity presented itself, when a UK and Ireland tour was announced in April to much delight of the fans. Friday the 13th, the unusually auspicious date, was set with the planets aligned to cast their celestial splendour upon a warm evening at the renowned Guildhall Arts Centre of Gloucester.

A largely mature, cultured crowd assembled with jovial expectancy of a great event - with a lot less colourful kaftans and tie-dyed shirts present than in the band's 90s heyday .Up stepped alt-rock troubador, Willow Robinson, to warm up the stage for 30 minutes with his Eddie Vedder-esque soulful vocals and blues-rock guitar panache.

During the interval that followed, the increasing aroma of sandalwood infused throughout the room. The incense coupled with the impressive kaleidescopic images projected upon the stage backdrop, the various amps and instruments set up in almost an art installation fashion. Particularly notable was Paul Winterhart's drum kit, kick drum cover draped with a mala (Garland) with the sanskrit word 'Kri' imprinted, and this set the tone for the evening. The jubilant greeting received by the quartet entered the arena, to what sounded like a bollywood epic soundtrack with soaring high-end vocal mantras. Drummer Paul Winterhart kept it casual comfortable in long shorts, t-shirt and a beanie hat. Bassist Alonza Bevan donned a Indiana Jones inspired look, followed by smart casual Keys Maestro Harry Broadbent and frontman/guitarist Crispian Mills, who then took up one of his signature guitars; the lush blue peacock Fender Stratocaster.

The fabulous four opened the night with 'Sound Of Drums' with infinite echoed bars of Crispian's guitar, which instantly transported the room to those early 90's britpop days. The next song was a gutsy blues cover of Hawkwind's 'Hurry On Sundown',  allowing Crispian to show his prowess on both harmonica and guitar simultaneously.  These two songs were setting the crowd up nicely, as an the effect of 'Grateful When You're Dead/Jerry Was There', combined Paul and Alonza's locked-tight thunderous presence, in addition to the incendary Crispian's note perfect solo, was indeed a blast from the past.

Crispian advised the attentive crowd of their newly practiced song 'Let Love B With U', though it was not obviously noticeable, as it was well executed by the band, in particular treating us to the mastery of Harry's live skillful jazz piano grooves.

The illuminating and emotionally yearning 'Temple Of Light' then first single of the new album 'Infinite Sun' transported us to the ghats of Varanasi in India. With the help of Paul's pulsing drums and Crispian, Harry and Alonza's combined harmonies reached al around to embrace those present and then eased gracefully into 'Shower Your Love', which released drops of compassionate energy upon the crowd.

It was time to take the tempo and equally temperature up a notch, so much so that Crispian had taken his blazer off, and blasted through '303' with it's inspiring Wah guitar Solo, fetching a grateful round of applause. Next up was the tongue-in-cheek 'Oh Mary'', with adding another well received new song. Followed by the metallic mind melter, 'Mountain Lifter' containing Alonza's booming bass and Paul's relentless drums, all coaxed along the nimble guitar work of Crispian.

Several songs got the room buzzing on all levels,and certainly Crispian kept the energy levels constant with his charismatic stage presence. 'Smart Dogs' was explosively endearing, 'Peter Pan RIP' kept it simply trippy, and 'Mystical Machine Gun' fired lovebullets that took out huge sections of the crowd, who were swaying in a collective bliss. Followed by the Hollies-esq psych stomper '108 Battles (Of The Mind)' got the scene moving and grooving like a soul train episode featuring Austin Powers.

The slowdown to 'Tattva' released a collective appreciation of others, and with the help of the projected warp speed film loop it moved into the Deep Purple Cover 'Hush', which was received with genuine gladness.

The quick return to unveil an encore of 4 songs, included country road tale '33 Crows', then many rays of summer fun shone down on the dancing crowd with  'Hey Dude'  and the apocalyptic trumpet call 'Great Hosannah' which had  swirled gradually into explosions of grandeur, Though it all began to make sense when the Sanskrit sing-a-long 'Govinda' that enveloped the audience in a cosmic rapture, possibly giving few among the many present, a short glimpse of the Vedic heavenly realm; Goloka.

On Friday 13th, Kula Shaker fulfilled their mission of banishing the clouds of doubt away. They not only successfully revived the material that gave them popularity, but displayed a renewed energy and inventiveness that still stands the test of time.

 

(Many Thanks to Philip Evans for the Photos)

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