The sludge of King Krule's new album, Space Heavy, shines bright in the chandelier-lit beauty of the Eventim Apollo.
Words Liam Cattermole (@liam_cattermole)
Photos Josh Renaut
The lights go down and the crowd waits. A second passes, then two but before there can be another, screams wale from the hallowed walls of the Eventim Apollo. In a few moments, the venue will erupt once more for the appearance of a hunched silhouette attentively walking on stage. And then silence again. Echoed strums from the guitar begin to fill the room and simultaneously make it void of anticipation. King Krule perches his lips on the mic and begins to sing ‘Perfecto Miserable’, a deep cut from his third album, Man Alive!: “You’re my everything, you make me feel alright,” he reassures the audience, melting them into a pool of sweet melancholy.
Tonight, on this London stop of his European tour, King Krule is in high spirits. At one point, the cult-followed musician even gets fans to sing happy birthday to his mother, who embraces the endearment modestly from the stalls.
The gig starts slowly as the Peckham native savors the stripped-back muck of ‘Perfecto Miserable’ and ‘Alone, Omen 3’. But the trance is quickly broken. A sludgy bassline and piercing synth crescendos into the beginning of ‘Dumb Surfer’: the harrowing tale of self-destruction taken off The Ooz. King Krule’s second album provides a series of rambunctious highlights throughout the night. Prowling through the strobe light with rockstar prowess, when launching into ‘Emergency Blimp’ and ‘Half Man Half Shark’, he whips the crowd into a vicious mosh. It’s nice to see the more visceral moments celebrated in a live setting for an album so often associated with a contemplative haziness.
In the years since King Krule, born Archy Marshall, released 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, his music has become more subversive. Wilting in reverb and gloopy melodies, Space Heavy, the album which he’s touring, is a compelling listen, but one which lacks the obvious hits of his jazz-tinged debut. It’s no surprise then that the biggest cheers of the night come for tracks off his inaugural masterpiece.
Streamed hundreds of millions of times, the album celebrated its 10th anniversary over the summer and its impact on prevailing British guitar music cannot be underestimated. King Krule was just 19 when he released that record, on his birthday, and its hits seem to evoke something deeper than the rest of the setlist. When the opening licks of ‘Baby Blue’ ring off the venue’s impressive chandeliers, a girl turns to her friends and, sighing in a state of contentment, confesses, “This is my song.” ‘Out Getting Ribs’, tonight’s encore, has a similar effect.
Most of the setlist is well-received but there are moments in more stripped-back songs like 'Tortoise of Independency' and 'Empty Stomach Space Cadet' where you can hear people talking about anything other than King Krule's music. Gig etiquette post-lockdown is a worn-out trope that's sparked endless debates, but it is a shame that people don't seem so enthralled by live performances as they used to. 'Easy Easy' sparks the crowd back into life and sends Ignacio Salvadores, the saxophonist who plays a Bez-like role during songs where he isn't needed, headbanging from one side of the stage to another. The rest of the set is performed in the midst of giddy excitement. King Krule really matters and matters for so many people. As he continues to stray from the sounds of old, fans will still flock in their masses to see such a dazzling display of unrelenting energy.