Kula Shaker – Albert Hall, Manchester – A Review


I’m not sure what was more startling about the opening of this raucous gig in what is, in my opinion, Manchester’s premier venue – the fact that Crispian Mills doesn’t look a day older than when Kula Shaker’s seminal album K was released, or the fact that the packed crowd were like a firework ready to go off. It may have been my naivety, but I was partly expecting a half-full room full of middle-aged ex-Brit-Poppers slumped against the bar wondering why they’d bothered.

Kula Shaker boast a troubled past – as derided as they have been celebrated, Mills and his somewhat entitled upbringing and very British humour has not always warmed the fires of many – not least the music press. They have faded and re-emerged, threatened to become credible then been shunned. There’s no doubting, though, that Mills is a great guitar player and equally enthralling singer, and it was evident at the Albert Hall that he’s lost nothing of that youthful exuberance and swagger, despite entering his fiftieth year.

Ably supported by eclectic bassist Alonza Bevan, energetic beat-keeper Paul Winterhart and keys virtuoso Harry Broadbent, Mills paraded the stage with gangly limbs starfishing and blonde hair swishing, his glittered, other-worldly jacket flickering in tune with the heavy psychedelic rumblings from a band on top form. He tells the crowd to help him sing since he’s recovering from a throat infection, and there wasn’t a quiet voice in the house as they plowed their way through classics like Hey Dude, Sound Of Drums and the epic Grateful When You’re Dead / Jerry Was There. New song, Gingerbread Man, damn near raised the roof, and a live debut of Love in Separation went down a storm amongst a grateful Kula Shaker faithful.

The energy never waned, and with three of the last four tunes including Tattva, Hush and Govinda, the Albert hall bounced and screamed and air-guitared its way to a thrilling crescendo. I’ve rarely heard such frantic appreciation from a packed house in years as Mills quipped “Thanks Manchester – this is the city where it all started!”

There’s a calm mix of experience, lust and space to breathe in this band now – a band that may have seen its glory days chart-wise, but still has so much more to give on the live circuit. Known for their interest in traditional Indian music, culture, and mysticism, there may just be something in the music of Mills et al that cabala that has helped them sustain their youth and fever. A top gig!

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