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Concert Review: King Khan & the Shrines Do Paris

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King Khan is a nut. Boisterously funny, at times ironically in-your-face punk and soft-pornographic, he and his talented crew put on one of the wildest live shows I've ever seen.

I'd heard he was good, but I had just seen the Fleshtones the previous week, and was thoroughly impressed by the fun-loving, choreographed, but patently rocking performance they brought. But they look so well-behaved by comparison to the antics of Khan and co. This is Paris, mind you, a town with a respect for artists and bohemians, usually so long as they're wearing a suit, no matter how shabby. A small yet serious rock community exists (in addition to the throngs of global alt.pop and electro hipsters), but Khan's look and performance panache are all the more striking in this larger city's setting.

Khan was already at home in the bizarre decidedly un-stereotypically Parisian venue, the Glazart, which in the summer, is a kind of beach setting, all sandy with petanque game boxes, and tiki huts, the latter sometimes offering tasty seven-euro frozen margaritas. Khan decided to go bare foot and get some sand in his toes during the excellent Les Terribles set.

King Khan. Imagine a good-sized Indian (born in Montreal to immigrant parents, now relocated to Germany) with a prize beer belly in its full nude torso glory, wearing a cape, a kaiser Wilhelm spired-helmet (then a turban), and a lot of love beads. Then imagine a bit of glam sass manifest in gestures where he puts one foot up on the speaker, his body still turned toward the audience. His yelps and barbaric yaps echoing o'er all the rooftops of Paris kept perfect harmony with his frequent plunges to the floor, where he seizured about for a few seconds. He would also leap into the crowd, dirty dancing with unsuspecting and half-willing hotties, who nevertheless couldn't help cracking a grin or a giggle. He's a racy one, even pulling out a giant dildo during one song. Oh, but there's more.

At some intervals, and during his interventions into the opening set with Les Terribles, he transformed himself into a kind of human beer sprinkler, taking a big gulp of his plastic pint glass that appeared glued to his hand, he took his other hand and push on his cheek while slowly turning his head, spouting pseudo-punk streams of beer across the crowd. He has a dash of ironic punk rock to him, to be sure. He's serious un-serious. As one song was beginning, he addressed members of the audience, "Hey, to all you standing in the back there, eat shit and die!" Other times he engaged in a f-u flip off with the audience. During some plunges into the crowd, he'd foment some slam dancing. Unlike some overly serious punk shows, which unleash the repugnant music-event equivalent of road rage, it was free of any overt violence or aggression. Punk for a second, wink, wink. Postmodern times, meinen leiblings.

When they played "Land of the Freak" toward the end, it was hard to imagine any more appropriate character singing it (unless of course G.G. Allin's ghost were to drop by).

The rest of the band also contributed to the rambunctious weirdfest. Ron Streeter is the Shrine's percussionist whose pedigree issues from Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder touring. The organist, Freddy Rococo, was hitherto a one-man band in drag. The German sax player's name is Ben Ra, unsurprisingly because he is crazy about Sun and Coltrane. They even have a full-time cheerleader/gogo girl Bamboorella, whose gentleman's clubbish pompom show upped the sex quotient of the already juicy presentation.

Yet these especially visual elements should not relegate the band to the unfair status of a gimmick. Anyone who's heard them knows their brand of funky, trippy, soulful garage-pscyh-punk gumbo will inject some wiggle in your derriere. It's kind of garage revival, but as you can guess from the description above, with the Jazz and funk influences it's a far cry from the White Stripes or the Flat Duo Jets. The guitar and even the organ are parts of a much fuller sound. Definitely an entertaining show.

About Jayson Harsin