Kaki King is an easy artist to fall asleep to. She makes some awfully beautiful music, usually quite soft and peaceful—if not a bit dark. It’s good music to, as Kaki herself put it last night, “bliss out (to) and forget about everything else.” Seeing Kaki live is a different story. There’s a comfort level when listening to her recorded music—it’s almost as though you forget how absurdly talented she is. Seeing her live, I was glad there was no Pavlovian response causing me to fall asleep. You can still “bliss out” live, but you’ll be kept wide awake by the mesmerizing things she can do with a guitar.
King has been on the road for the last month, touring behind her gorgeous new album Glow. She was in very high spirits in front of the packed crowd, joking about the skull she and her wife sponsor at the Mutter Museum (a wedding gift from her in-laws, who were in attendance), making new friends as an adult, being unemployable in other fields, and the unusually-high number of Jessicas she had dated before marrying one. Between the banter, she picked through a brilliant 17-song setlist, nearly half-filled with songs from Glow.
The new album was recorded with a string quartet named ETHEL, who unfortunately “book like three years in advance,” leaving King to tour behind the album by herself (King assured us they will tour together in a couple of years though). The quartet’s beautiful additions to Glow cannot be understated, but their absence was not as missed as I expected. The bio for the record quotes King as saying “this is a guitar record,” but last night she clarified that “it became something else in the studio.” While that may be true, it remains a “guitar record” at its core. No matter who she is playing with, King will always be the center of attention.
After opening the set with an old crowd favorite (“Bone Chaos in the Castle”), she settled into the new material. After a block of six new songs, she played a block of six old songs from various records before ending the set with two final new songs. Along the way, she was switching between five guitars, including a seven-string and a homemade koto guitar. For the encore, she brought out a sixth guitar to geek out about—straight from the Moog factory for Kaki’s own beta-testing.
“When I played this for the first time it was like being on drugs for the first time,” King joked about the new guitar. This wasn’t my first time seeing Kaki live, but I’m tempted to make a similar comparison to the experience of seeing her perform. The feeling may be more hypnotizing than high, but I don’t much care to analyze the distinction. I’m mostly just glad I didn’t fall asleep.
Kaki King @ World Cafe Live (Downstairs) – Philadelphia, PA – Wednesday, November 14, 2012
01 Bone Chaos in the Castle
02 Holding the Severed Self
03 Streetlight in the Egg
05 Cargo Cult
06 Kelvinator, Kelvinator
07 Bowen Island
08 Carmine Street
10 Doing the Wrong Thing
12 Night After Sidewalk
13 The Fire Eater
14 King Pizel