King Khan & The Shrines - Hotel Street, London

Sailor Jerry venue opens...
King Khan.jpg
Hidden away in London’s bustling Soho district is a newly opened exotic idyll. Tonight on Charing Cross Road, Sailor Jerry launches Hotel Street - their first UK venue, it's a tranquil hula hub inspired by the heady atmosphere of Hotel Street District where Norman Collins made his name, housing spiced cocktails and iconic American tattoos, plus exciting rock’n’roll acts.

The fluorescent Hawaiian shirts worn by opening act King Salami & The Cumberland 3 set the tone for this evening perfectly. Frontman Salami’s tongue-in-cheek twisting and jiving is a sight to behold – shaking maracas more vigorously than Bez on a bad trip to every beat of the rockabilly rhythms. An infectious retro energy grips the crowd who begin to boogie.

After a short beverage break anticipation heightens for King Khan And The Shrines. Khan’s reputation for anachronistic anarchy precedes him. A Berlin-based funk freak, he’s a flamboyant showman with bizarre on-stage attire to match. Eight members of The Shrines struggle to fit on an incommodious stage – they include percussionist Ron Streeter, a formed band-mate of Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder.

The funk-soul concoction begins with sumptuous brass layers building before Khan appears – lavishly adorned in a glittering outfit, shrouded by a golden cape and topped with a head-dress which makes PJ Harvey’s seem like a tawdry knock-off. He wastes no time transferring fervent energy to onlookers – jumping into the audience while emitting a vintage James Brown scream. Anyone in the way is hugged, serenaded, and danced into submission by the unpredictable frontman.

“Where are the freaks?” Khan demands before a rambunctious organ solo paves the way for ‘Land Of The Freaks’, a bullet-speed song causing a melee of uninhibited floor-moving. The pace is unrelenting as ‘Pickin’ Up The Trash’ hits next – a raucous horn fuelled number sounding like Otis Redding being sped up to 140 bpm. Not taking themselves too seriously, entertaining is key priority. It’s clear The Shrines are enjoying themselves too – guitars, trumpets, and saxophones are passionately hurled around. A wooden organ is even held aloft in appreciation as fans cheer towards the end of ‘Stone Soup’.

Khan, an Indo-Canadian, could rival Frederick Bulsara in terms of stage presence. He goads everyone to chant “My baby’s fat and ugly but I love her,” during the comical ‘Took My Baby To Dinner’, and ‘I Wanna Be A Girl’ sounds like a rock’n’roll parody of Iggy Pop’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. The good-humour continues when the group return for an encore.

Khan makes yet another spectacular entrance. As the band play Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’ he re-emerges – this time wearing nothing but a pair of glittering trunks and a helmet. Best described as a rotund gent, his outfit change is brazen, but the room is already completely rapt by the erratic frontman. As the set comes to a close the final song descends into a Trout Mask Replica style spontaneous jazz outburst with saxophonists and trumpeters circling the venue. As for the frontman, he’s opposite the stage, at the bar, wearing only trunks, drinking Sailor Jerry.

Words: Simon Butcher

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