My second Kula Shaker gig was an almighty demonstration of the liberating, life-affirming magic of live music.
“Bloody hell! The rawk’n’roll! The tunes! The escalating euphoria! The tight black t-shirt! Bloody hell was this something.”
Just over three weeks previously I’d seen Kula Shaker for the first time at the 100 Club, and had been so hugely impressed by their mystical rock prowess that I’d raced straight out the next day to buy a ticket for this gig at the Forum. But even that first gig did not prepare me for just how astonishing Kula Shaker could be live. From my diary:
“Can you imagine! There were moments here that rivalled Kilburn, just moments maybe, but that’s what life is made for.”
By Kilburn, I meant Mansun’s gig at the Kilburn National in April 1997, which I considered then (and still do) to be the greatest gig of my life. To compare this Kula Shaker gig to that one was high praise indeed from my young self.
The gig didn’t start at such heights, but that’s not to say it began drably. I settled into my usual gig activity of finding myself a the best spot to dance and jump about in with a good view of my preferred boy of the evening. “There was “Hey Dude”, a Hawkwind tune, and “303”, and I had a fine view of Crisp, and Crisp was indeed so fine that I was not perhaps so inclined at the start to join the jubilant jumpers all around me in their hyperactive moshing.”
But the crowd that night were so incredibly up for it that I couldn’t refrain for long. “I have to say, this was the most excitable throng I’ve ever been in, I was way to the far right, and you’re normally safe at the sides, but no, not tonight! There was a fair bit of push and jostle but by and large it was bearable, and gradually I found myself joining in as energetically as I could.”
There was a brief respite from the moshing when “they did a massive “Great Hosannah” and a swayalong “Mystical Machine Gun”” and then it all got raucous again with “SOS”, which turned out to be a very apt song title for what started happening during it. “SOS is what I soon felt like shouting after a fight broke out in front of me! Between two skinny waif girls! Bloody hell.” Security soon escorted the two violent young ladies away and my bit of the crowd settled, and this is when the gig began to ignite into incredibleness.
“I found myself perfectly positioned in thirdish row and they do “Grateful When You’re Dead” and this tune, of all tunes, is the one that explodes with limb-flinging rawk magnitude and all is utterly fab. I give up on straining to stare at Crisp every single second and commence losing it and letting go like never ever before.”
Things got even better with the next song “Into The Deep”, one of my absolute favourite Kula Shaker tracks. “It was a total shriek-inducing thrill. I recall listening to a live broadcast of the Kulas on Radio 1 over two years ago, and even then this song’s sky-rocketing chorus of “fly brother fly well I hope you meet your maker!!” arrested my heart and shot it igniting to the stars. I didn’t expect them to do it tonight, and then when Crisp commenced that “into the deep the long forgotten sleep”, oh I was in heaven and dance my little legs off.”
Songs like “108 Battles of the Mind” and “Shower Your Love” continued the momentum, but the song that had me truly possessed by the utter magnificence of this gig was “Smart Dogs”. “I lost it completely, utterly, uncontrollably, and basically, danced like a lunatic. The flailing limbs! The swivelling fringe! I’d seen other people do it, but never indulged myself before. It was wonderful. I was ready to carry on all night by this time. I felt engulfed by the music and bloody hell was it the right place to be.”
Then a little breather for “I’m Still Here”, another of my faves and “a gorgeous sigh of defiance”, and “Tattva” which was “swooning magnificence“, before we were thrown back into “the utter mosh chaos of “Hush” which I was well up for. Na nana na nana naa naa naa! The band are off and my heart pounds and my head spins and I attempt to take some deep breaths and recover slightly whilst screaming for the band to return, for I know what’s yet to come.”
They teased us with a snippet of “Radhe Radhe” before striding back on to give us “Sound Of Drums”, my absolute favourite Kula Shaker song. “As they crashed into that apocalyptic omnipotent barrage of brilliance it is, for that moment, the greatest gig of my life ever. I was a bit wiped out by this time, still compelled by some force beyond me to thrash about, if a bit more mildly than before.” I caught my breath as they played a moody “Timeworm” and “Last Farewell” and finally, of course, it was “Govinda”, “surprisingly not as swayalong as it was at the 100 Club, but then perhaps not so surprising if the rest of the throng was as knackered as me by this time.” The gig ended magnificently with “Crisp’s shivering holler “Goooviindaaa!”” and somehow, I staggered back home.
This had been a gig where I got lost to the music in a way I rarely did. “I feel as though I can barely remember the band being there, so caught up was I in the glorious noise they were making. All I can remember is Crispian, with his flailing blond skinny twisting leaps of guitar thrashing mayhem, was awe-inspiringly perfect in his rock deity role.” Considering that I had just emerged from 1998, a year which for me was full of anxiety and depression, finding myself suddenly a Kula Shaker fan was a revelation. “They are all about joy, positivity – not a trace of deviance, it’s almost liberating to love them. A victory for Good Times.” It certainly was that night.
“I left the gig wishing I could always feel like this, so alive, so real. This is why I need music so much. But I’m lucky, because music is one thing I need never be in short supply of.”
Which I think just may be the truest words I’ve ever written.