Kula Shaker at The Academy, Dublin, 5th May 2016
Like a tipsy approximation of an eastern temple, tonight The Academy is a heady mix of beer and incense. Figures dart across the stage, wedging bunches of glowing sticks between drums, against mics, in cracks in the floor; and the fragrant smoke rises, flickering through blue lights and enveloping the crowd below. It’s an appropriately esoteric welcome for Kula Shaker, a band famed for their mix of psychedelia, Brit-rock and Maharishi-era Beatles, and we’re rewarded with a cohesive set blending new material and ’90s cult classics.
The set takes a while to get going, with frontman Crispian Mills about twenty minutes warmer than the crowd are. On opener Sound of Drums he hunches over his guitar, head thrashing in quasi-devotional reverie before leaping up arms aloft, beckoning all to do the same. A harmonica-tinged cover of Hawkwind’s Hurry on Sundown feels like a jam session in a faded velvet tent at Glastonbury, with a bunch of musically talented yet chemically mellowed strangers. But by the time that sitar and Hare Krishna rhythms herald Infinite Sun, we’re in the tent with them, tambourine in hand and ready to join the chanting.
And so we move together through Shower Your Love and 303, a song ostensibly about a road which Mills performs with indie-boy pizazz, shouts of “I’ve got to got to get to some place I’ve not seen” and a buzzing guitar solo which ends with him throwing the instrument high and (just) catching it, knocking over the mic in the process. It’s all slightly rough around the edges, but polished performance and ’60s psychedelia wouldn’t sit well anyway – the swoops of Peter Pan RIP and unhurried Eagles-esque rhythm of Ophelia are far better when slightly rusted.
Tattva is a high point of the set, featuring doo-wop guitar, chant, and staccato Hammond organ chords which nod at Strawberry Fields Forever; but it’s Hush that closes out pre-encore, a small section of the crowd forming a enthusiastic but orderly mosh-pit in front of the stage. Of course the band are coming back – the gaping Hey Dude and Govinda shaped hole in the set must be filled. It’s a four song encore, beginning with Americana ditty 33 Crows which Mills dedicates to his grandmother, and ending with Govinda, the only UK top ten hit sung entirely in Sanskrit. A neat and crowd-pleasing set – nothing unexpected, but enjoyable nonetheless.