One of the most underrated venues in Yorkshire, Holmfirth Picturedrome, hosted one of the most underrated bands on the 90’s. The venues sloped floor and two balconies make sure that everyone had a great view of a stunning Kula Shaker set.
The entertainment began with solo artist Willow Robinson. As he casually strolled on stage with his guitar in hand, looking like someone you would expect to be cast as a male love interest in Home & Away, he instantly caught the crowd’s attention. The Picturedrome seemed to be at capacity and Willow Robinson’s casual brilliance made everyone’s ears prick. His vocals combined American rock influences with a touch of Fleet Foxes, which he effortlessly belted out between fiddly blues guitar riffs. Willow impressed the audience before Kula Shaker came on and blew them away.
Kula Shaker appeared through the heavy haze of numerous industrial sized incense sticks burning on stage, as the aroma filled the room the atmospheric and excited tension grew. As you might expect, there was some Indian style intro music after which they began with “Sound of Drums” from their 1999 album Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts. Despite this track being 17 years old it still sounded current and ultra hip. Lead singer Crispian Mills provided flawless vocals as the rest of the band contributed uplifting harmonies throughout this finely honed act. Even during “Hurry On Sundown” while Mills was playing guitar and harmonica simultaneously, as well as singing, their collective performance was perfection.
The first big reaction from the crowd came about half way through their set when they treated us to a rendition of “303”, a track that was first released two decades ago. It was just further proof that during the 90’s Kula Shaker were well ahead of their time and everyone else has only recently caught up. Their nineties repertoire still has that air of feeling timeless and undeniably cool, and while their new material still has the same air it isn’t just simply a rehashing of earlier work. Having recently released their fifth studio album K 2.0 they included a handful of tracks from it, in amongst the hits. “Infinite Sun” showed that the band are constantly looking to progress, it still had the Indian sounds but the chorus was their moodiest and darkest to date. Inexplicably whilst combining so many varying influences their style is still reminiscent of some bands from the Wirral. “Mountain Lifter” possessed so many layers and intricate parts that it was difficult to believe that only four musicians were on stage.
A gripping set concluded with a flourish including “Smart Dogs”, a drawn out version of “Tattva”, and “Hush” before the band returned for a rousing encore. Initially Mills reappeared alone and began playing “33 Crows” before the remaining members joined back in as the chorus began. The encore featured “Hey Dude” and then closed on “Govinda” as the crowd enthusiastically shouted along with every word. Leaving the venue with the warm feeling of having witnessed something special it struck me just how much of their first album had stuck with me and was deeply familiar twenty years on.
(Main image by Andrew Benge from Kula Shaker at The Roundhouse, London, 17 Feb 2016)