King Krule Crackles and Coalesces at Casino de Paris
Before diving into the experience of seeing an artist with such potential as King Krule, I feel compelled to do something unfathomable for many critics: admit I was wrong.
In a review of this artist’s previous album under his own name, Archy Marshall, I totally got it wrong. The change in aesthetics and abandonment of the goods that got him to where he was shook me off of my game, and I failed to realize at the time what a monumental album A New Place 2 Drown was in the evolution of the career now housed under the name King Krule. An immediate giveaway should have been that I obsessively listened to tracks like “Thames Water” on Spotify after the review’s publication—so much so, in fact, that three of the album’s songs made it onto my Spotify end of year playlist, an algorithmic amalgamation of the most listened to songs on the account during the calendar year.
Yet at Le Casino de Paris on Sunday night, November 26, none of the tracks released by Archy Marshall were anywhere to be found. Rather, King Krule burned the house down by sandwiching his latest album, The Ooz, between some of his greatest hits from the early aughts. Opening with a cracking rendition of “Has This Hit?”, the petit ginger Brit asserted his commanding stage presence, taking time between verses to order stagehands to make alterations to the sound and lighting. With his band now carrying a full-time baritone saxophone player, older tracks that did not involve such heavy jazz elements were greatly enhanced during the show with sax-man solos interspersed throughout.
The crowd began to get moving by the third track, “A Lizard State,” which I have now come to terms with after it being—by virtue of its alphabetical hegemony in my iTunes songs—the first song to play every time I started my car. I became sick of it and even loathed it until Marshall belted out the hook in his scratchy and outsize deep voice (he stands just barely over five feet five inches and looks half a decade younger than his 23 years).
“But baby what am I to do? / I’ve given up on loving you. / And I know that’s not nothing new, / So please do what I ask of you.”
Easing into his latest album, “Dum Surfer” proved to be an absolute banger. Marshall and company played the mid-album track on Conan a few weeks ago, and its over reliance on live distortion effects betrayed it and landed as a dud in front of however significant CoCo’s audience is. Yet at Le Casino, the band doubled down on its cohesion and the building was bumping. Marshall was dipping and bobbing around the microphone like a boxer while his bassist grunted out backup vocals. To top it off, dueling guitar and sax solos from the remaining band members led to a standing ovation of nearly a full minute before Marshall moved on to a soliloquy about healthcare and reptiles.
Around the halfway point of the show, a change in scenery occurred. Marshall let his legs rest on a stool while playing the keyboard to show off the slower side of his repertoire, where he is at his best for a wide audience. Saturated with blue lights and oscillating with the coos of the bari-sax, Marshall silenced the house with his soul massaging track, “Sublunary.”
“I was made for sublunary. / I’m not here, sublunary. / I was made for, sublunary / And shades of blue lunacy.”
With time seemingly halted, Marshall returned de bout and thanked a series of music teachers before livening the venue back up with “Rock Bottom,” an illusive track that can only be streamed on BandCamp and YouTube at the moment.
After covering the major tracks of The Ooz, Marshall dipped back into older hits, feigning a bonne soirée sign-off with “Easy Easy,” a track once shared by Beyoncé.
While Queen Bey’s gesture was not lost on Marshall, he recently questioned the veracity of the social media sharing in an interview with Rolling Stone, where he posited that it could have just been her social media team and she may have never even heard the song. This comes after the New York Times reported that Marshall turned down collaboration with Kanye West for this album, a tidbit that has solidified his cult-leading status among fans and landed him in the social feeds of unsuspecting Yeezy observers.
Marshall’s aversion to the spotlight manifested itself literally during the show, with the singer remaining shrouded in darkness with the rest of the band as a four-front light show played out across the crowd. Only a few lighting schemes illuminated his rosy hair and lifted the shadows from under his cliff-hanging cheekbones.
Walking back on stage solo for an encore, Marshall played his best track, “Out Getting Ribs,” which has taken on a few variations from his BandCamp days to the official release of 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, his first full length album in 2013. A deeply introspective and sorrowful track, the last 26 seconds of the song shift to something verging on catharsis. This might be the best way to understand the complicated arc of Marshall’s oeuvre, which began to take a more comprehensive shape Sunday night as he melded motifs from each album, often centering around his elusive “Baby Blue.” King Krule’s music often explicitly sets out from its track titles and hooks to lead the listener to the depths, only to be turned around by the winds of catharsis, giving a glance upwards and beyond the grey horizon.
Marshall took in the applause for no longer than a second before throwing his guitar over his shoulder and onto the stage floor, leaving it cracked at the neck and limply oozing feedback as he scampered off stage.