King Khan and the Shrines
Wexner Center, Columbus, May 14
by Dorian S. Ham

Context is everything. So when it was announced that the heavy rockin’ R&B dance band King Khan and the Shrines would be playing the Wexner Center, it was a slight cause for concern. The advance word on King Khan was that his shows were not so much concerts as they were barely contained tent revivals. One would assume that Khan would be shirtless and manic throughout his performance. But while the Wexner has hosted its fair share of envelope-pushing performances, it’s also a place where the hardest thing at the concession stand is Coca-Cola. Not exactly the most logical place for fans to get their freak on.

Yet despite the handicap, King Khan and the Shrines were up for the challenge. Touring in support of the The Supreme Genius of... compilation, the eight-piece band (not counting Khan and go-go dancer Bamborella) played fast and played hard. Half of the fun of the show was just watching the band’s antics. Not content to stay in one place and groove, they spent their time running around the stage and generally freaking the hell out. It was like watching cats that had been fed nothing but Pop Rocks and Mountain Dew for days. Sadly some of their energy was hampered by a sound mix that didn’t really hit as hard or loud as it probably should have.

In contrast Khan was relatively subdued. The voodoo soul man of legend apparently didn’t make the show. The only thing he removed during the main set was his natty blazer, and he limited his audience interaction to a couple of monologues and some call-and-response. To be fair when you have songs like “Welfare Bread” and “I Want To Be A Girl” you don’t really have to go for the hard sell. Yet despite not living up to his advance billing as an unhinged wildman, he was still a dynamic front man. Delivering a set full of larynx-shredding, soul testifying songs, Khan was determined to get the party started. Sadly, the show never truly went off as some of the crowd was a little hesitant to shake their stankin’ asses minus the liberating effects of booze. But despite all of that, King Khan and the Shrines showed that they’re willing to bring the heat anytime and any place.