Image Courtesy of Kaki King
Kaki King supported by Vorn Doolette
25th November 2010, Jive
Those familiar with the music of Kaki King would be aware that her new album Junior moves surprisingly far away from the style by which she made her name. Most readers of this site, whether fans of Kaki King or not, would be familiar with her seemingly freakish and pioneering percussive slap-pick acoustic technique, which, on the new album, takes a back-seat to a sound which is probably best described as alternative rock. One can expect to encounter mixed feelings and opinions when an artist’s stylistic direction changes suddenly. Cast your minds back to the outrage that surrounded Bob Dylan’s decision to explore writing and performing with electric instruments. Breaking from Dylan’s precedent, there was nothing but positivity and eager anticipation waiting to greet King back to the Jive venue in Adelaide, which was thankfully blessed with her presence for the second time within a year.
On an evening where I experienced the horror of realizing the queasy feeling in my stomach was going to require urgent access to a toilet on a completely toiletless 30 minute train journey, to then unsuccessfully attempt to change my girlfriend’s flat tire instead of having a nice, pre-gig Vietnamese dinner, I was really needing a reason to live by the time I got to the show. Enter stage left: Vorn Doolette. A recent near fatal car accident left the charming performer in hospital for quite a few weeks, but Vorn has since returned to the stage in a big way – minus a piece of his spleen, and plus a few cool scars. Having supported Andy Bull for his comeback gig earlier this month, and with support shows for Jeff Martin (the Tea Party) & Terepai Richmond (The Whitlams) lined up for December, as well as a place at Woodford Folk Festival, Vorn will have no trouble returning to full confidence and picking up where he left off, which was the benchmark for all emerging Australian singer-songwriters to be measured against (the scale of one-to-Vorn Doolette).
The attentive and well-primed audience then condensed stagewards to welcome Kaki King along with her band, which consisted of drummer Jordan Perlson and multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan. The performance kicked off with the hard-rocking number “Falling Day”, from the new album. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about King’s musical diversification, so I decided to reserve judgement until I saw it live, and I must say, rock music is definitely something that flows in her veins. Biting her bottom lip and flaring nostrils with intensity, King moved about the stage like a woman possessed, feeding off the energy in the room and from her band. When you see her enjoying her art like this you cease to wonder what prompted her change in direction. Her new music isn’t just rock music; it’s emotive, technical, and complex rock music. With her two-man band, she explores irregular timings and complex time signatures which further highlight her versatility and capability as a songwriter and musician.
The second song on the menu was “Bone Chaos in the Castle”, a crowd favourite from her 2008 album Dreaming of Revenge. The song fully exhibits King’s percussive acoustic technique which had the audience behaving like meerkats, standing as tall as they could on the tip of their toes hoping to get a good view of what her hands could possibly be doing to make an acoustic guitar sound like that.
The rest of the set continued in this manner; well balanced between songs off the new album, and older pieces of acoustic instrumentalism where the rest of the band disappeared back-stage and let her do her thing. During these times, King had fond words of banter with the audience and discussed all things in-between American Thanksgiving, to the unexpected present her band members had arranged: porn taped to the top of her guitar. Australia has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Kaki King, and it’s fair to assume that in Adelaide at least, fans will continue to support her musical endeavours no matter which direction they lead in.