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The King Khan and BBQ Show--Where is the Show?

King Khan & BBQ Show

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

King Khan is a rock star. When he comes out on stage, young eyes focus on him like he is a preacher about to deliver an important message. He is hard to miss, wearing a short gold dress with a slit down the front cut to the waist. Where cleavage might normally be found, a large belly pokes defiantly throughout the hole in the front. An electric blue wig and sneakers complete the costume.  To his left sits BBQ, wearing a turban that will slide over his eyes when he shakes his head. He shakes his head violently during every song. Unfortunately for the King and his subjects, there is no important message. This is all just theater, used to dress up average songs.

The dress. The wig. The guitar antics and high kicks and all of the rest of the rock star posing works on a generation that was sucking it's collective thumb during the slacker 90's. Rock star moves were deemed uncool after Nirvana and company got together with Spin magazine to decide how musicians in the rock and roll world should start behaving. Now, in 2009, those same kids are going out to shows, spending money, and it's all new again. The all-ages concert was divided, more so than most shows. Old Folks (30 and over) in the back and Everyone Else up front. Old Folks looked bored. Everyone Else went nuts. There was moshing.

The King seems to have found a nice, easy niche. T-shirts were selling briskly along with posters, stickers, CDs, and records. There was a shout out to the artist that created the latest album's cover, mid-set. The band consists of 2 members: Khan and long time collaborator, BBQ. Their equipment:  Half of a drum kit and a couple of tiny amps, makes for an easy load in but not a very loud show. Logan Square Auditorium is a big room for two people to fill. Most of the songs have a 1-2-3-4 drum beat and feature the word 'love' followed with yelps and screams from Khan. Surf guitar and doo-wop numbers are interspersed throughout the set. Once again, the younger-crowd reaction is boisterously energetic. It is like Dick Dale never existed.  After the spectacle that was King Khan and his Shrines, this stripped down band seems diminished in every aspect: not as loud, captivating, daring, or innovative.

Music, like a great many things, moves in cycles. Usually, when something comes around again, it's at least slightly repackaged for the new consumers. Marilyn Manson added more shock to the Alice Cooper formula. Lady Gaga tries to be more outrageous than Madonna. Hank Williams III sped up the  country of Hank Senior, and so on...This time around, King Khan is shrouding the band in psychedelic imagery, but the songs are straight up torch songs with a punk beat (or just torch songs with a regular beat). The music needs to change, not just the presentation. Still, 3/4 of the crowd was ecstatic. Such is the power of cycles.

The music and responsibilities of a two person band seem to keep Khan seatbelted into place.  Although a fine guitar player, Khan needs a wall of sound to fuel his star power. This current band is limiting the showmanship that is a King Khan performance. Sure, the leg kicks and guitar posturing are all there, but it's been done before. All of the psychedelic banners, crazy album covers, and questionable fashion statements don't change the fact that these songs are good but not great and the performance was adequate, but not a King Khan freak-out.