Kula Shaker, named in honour of one of the twelve alvars of Southern India, are a band that need no introduction and the almighty tour they are currently on is testament to that. However, this is not just any tour – it is the 20th Anniversary of their debut album K tour. K reached UK no. 1 in the album charts in 1996 and it is therefore no wonder with the release of their fifth studio album, K 2.0, this year that a tour of this magnitude has come to fruition.
The venue for tonight, The Albert Hall, is a relatively new venue in Manchester and yet with its two tiered approach and glass windows, the setting couldn’t be more appropriate.
They take to the stage to rapturous applause, hoots and woops from the full auditorium and set things off nicely with ‘Hey Dude’, track one from K. Perfectly delivered it sets the mood and if frontman Crispian Mills’ moves are anything to go by, they have lost none of their swagger. ‘Knight on the Town’ displays all the elements of a great Britpop track whilst still channelling psychedelic vibes.
‘Temple of Everlasting Light’ has a haunting opening before the energy seeps through and takes over. We are lead eerily with a duo organ piece from bassist Alonza Bevan and Harry Broadbent into ‘Smart Dogs’ (yes, the astute will notice we’ve missed one there). ‘Magic Theatre’ comes next, continuing the eerie theme that we are on and it’s easy to understand why these songs were positioned next to each other on the album with the similarities running through them. ‘Into The Deep’ has a relentless drum beat courtesy of sticks master Paul Winterhart upping the anti to conclude Side A.
A theatrical turn of the vinyl is performed and then we are treated to tracks that were recorded during the K period, but didn’t make the record. ‘Shower Your Love’ they tell us is the love song that the record label wanted, and it ended up being one of their favourites. ‘Gokula’ is of course dedicated to Beatle George Harrison and accompanied by psychedelic visuals on the screen behind.
Back on course we begin Side B with ‘Sleeping Jiva’, a sitar being played through a clever effects pedal on the guitar is the perfect instrumental to lead into ‘Tattva’ – the crowd predictably go wild as the first bars are strummed by Crispian. The luring lyrics have lost none of their charm and the organ accompaniment courtesy of Harry is delivered with particular grace. A brief double chant of “Hallelujah” is a nice little nod from the band to the Happy Mondays – clearly they know their audience.
‘Grateful When You’re Dead/Jerry Was There’ with its edgy guitar opening which relents into harmonised vocals has the crowd moving before ‘303’ raises the pace once more and the jumping continues downstairs whilst upstairs jive happily. ‘Start All Over’ is one to sway too and people haven’t forgotten how. A dedication from the band to Craig Gill of the Inspiral Carpets, a Manchester legend who passed recently receives a round of applause before ‘Hollow Man (Parts 1 &2)’ rounds off K.
Before the band take a hiatus they smash out anthem ‘Hush’ which sees the crowd go wild once more – the band lap it up in earnest, content in the knowledge they have earned every second of this adulation.
A brief pause whilst the band freshen up and then we are from the old straight into the new with ’33 Crows’ from K 2.0. The slower, romantic themed tune slows things down and allows the band (and the crowd) to catch their breath before ‘Infinite Sun’, which has a nod back to ‘Sleeping Jiva’ which played earlier in the set, takes hold. The track which offers chanted repetitive lyrics is clearly a fan favourite from the new album and they chant along happily.
‘Govinda’ which was conveniently missed out from its correct track placement in K makes its appearance now much to the delight of the crowd who obediently take up the chant orchestrated by Crispian. It is the perfect way to end their set and we can forgive them for skipping its place earlier. They bow out to quite the ruckus, all smiles.
Barely a moment passes before they come back on stage telling us affectionately that they will play one more and that they had to think hard about their choice. They do a mash up of ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’ by The New Seakers, with just a touch of ‘Shakermaker’ by Oasis thrown in, ending with a Christmas ensemble – it’s quite a combination. They wish the crowd Merry Christmas and take their exit.
Kula Shaker have executed a superb set here tonight doing K complete justice, showing why after 20 years it is still a fantastic record. The second half of the set through in some other favourites and showcased enough of K 2.0 to keep fans sated. It’s got to be said, they’ve still got it.