Live Review: King Krule at the Hammersmith Apollo (10th October 23)
King Krule is back on tour with his new album, Space Heavy, his fifth album to date. Archy Marshall rose to fame after being discovered under the name Zoo Kid as a teenager releasing music from his bedroom; the song in question, Out Getting Ribs, is still his biggest hit to date.
His debut album, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, was released on his 19th birthday, and he generated a cult-like following amongst teenagers in the second decade of the century. His success came in part because he was a new, upcoming artist from London, that young people could discover for themselves, rather than be told about by their parents or elder siblings. Whatever you think of him, releasing a debut album at 19 is cool. He’s cool, that’s cool, fine.
With clear influences from Elvis (his style and body language look like an early Elvis impersonator, and his name is taken from the Elvis film King Creole) he also takes inspiration from Billy Bragg, Aztec Camera and Chet Baker. His music sounds as if Royal Blood, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and someone like Tyler the Creator were all stuck in a blender together. Maybe a bit of Morrissey or the Libertines too. His Bluewave style helped influence UK music in the 2010s. We can see his footprint on artists like Cosmo Pyke; the two even attended the Brit school at similar times.
Despite him falling into obscurity somewhat, he is back and touring. I was told that two of his biggest hits, Easy Easy and Out Getting Ribs, are both generating quite a stir on TikTok currently, and as we all know, being big in Japan is the second most important place to be big these days.
His cult following is still around. I met a guy in the queue who had experienced an epiphany-esq dream that he went to this concert over four years ago, and has been patiently chomping at the bit throughout Covid to make his dream realised ever since. Other people seemed similarly enthused. The crowd were young, save myself and a woman in front of me who knitted the entire way through the concert contentedly. What an inspiration.
My experience of the concert was mixed. He kicked off the gig with Perfecto Miserable, a track from Man Alive! The sound system wasn’t amazing, a little loud and grainy. KK’s voice is low, gravelly and very mumbly, so added with the sound system it made it difficult to hear him.
Krule’s stage presence was nonexistent. He rarely interacted with the audience, and when he did he did it so badly I wished he hadn’t. His affected, Fagin-from-Oliver-voice would mumble out at the crowd unintelligibly. At one point he asked us all to meow like a cat. No thanks, pal. Long, long pauses between songs didn’t help the awkwardness of the performance.
Easy Easy, one of the two big TikTok songs, came on at about the halfway point. King Krule seemed to be somewhat resigned about the fact he had to play it, but play it he did, and it was probably the high point of the concert. The bass riff started and I was 16 again.
The standing group did their best to mosh. I love nothing more than a dirty mosh pit, but King Krule is pretty slow and melodic, more of a going to bed early vibe than sweaty shoving in a crowd. That didn’t deter the gang of teenagers however, ridding themselves of the Monday blues before school tomorrow.
There were regular and regimented breaks in the moshing to film and stick the clip on their stories. Similar breaks to check how many people had seen the stories. Kids mashing buttons on their phones like James Bond defusing a bomb with a second on the clock. Lord help us if the world doesn’t wake up to a grainy, staticky video of a pitch black gig tomorrow morning.
For everyone sitting, it was a very different atmosphere. We were all in those old theatre seats that you can really lean into. No standing up, jumping, dancing, or moving at all. Glyndebourne has more Rock n’ Roll in its audience. I have never seen so many people to-ing and fro-ing to the toilet during a gig. It was slow and got slower as it went on. Like a home game at Old Trafford, most people left before the end.
The excellent Tara-Lily came on for a couple of tracks (Empty Stomach Space Cadet and That Is My Life, That Is Yours), but unfortunately she didn’t do a huge amount, aside from an occasional accompanying moan over the ever present moody teenager dulcet tones of Archy Marshall.
Marshall came out for an encore with Out Getting Ribs before taking off his guitar and dropping it sullenly on the ground, an anticlimactic end to the gig that had trotted downhill since Easy Easy. Either pull a Jimi and smash up the guitar or put it down gently like a good boy. Passive aggressive emo semi-guitar drops aren’t a great show-stopper.
King Krule was cool in 2013, and I’m not trying to take that away from him. He is apparently cool now, regardless of all the people leaving early or going to the bathroom; talking to people after the concert they all were frantically checking their stories and discussing what a fantastic show it was, so I am happy to concede this is just down to personal preference. I would say if you liked him then or like him now, go ahead, but for me he is not worth going to see if you aren’t already a big fan. His songs are slow and grainy, and his stage presence does not give you enough to spend fifty quid or whatever it was on a ticket. But then I was never one for 2010s nostalgia, and I’m not on TikTok.