• Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Review: King Krule at Barrowland Ballroom

BySilver Eliot

Oct 25, 2023
King Krule (male, average height) is standing in the Barrowland concert hall. He is seen with his band, performing. We can see a little bit of the crowd, including one person holding up their phone to photograph him.

Archy Marshall, AKA King Krule, played to a sold-out Barrowland Ballroom on Friday 6th October.  

It’s Friday night, and the excitement of 2000 psyched-up kids is palpable. Already onto his fourth album, Space Heavy, King Krule is known for his aching baritone vocals and post-punk jazz sound, which have seen him likened to predecessors Shane Macgowan and Joe Strummer. Marshall’s downbeat lyrics contemplate insecure relationships, loneliness, and disillusion – despite this, everyone’s stoked.  

The angsty vulnerability of King Krule’s recorded works is impressively translated to the format of a live show, where his outbursts take on a more vital character. Introspection becomes proclamation – for example in the damning lyrics of ‘Pink Shell’, “you always put me to the test/to put me down” – which metamorphosises from a resentful admission to a furious call-to-arms via the frenzy of the crowd. Intermittently, saxophonist Ignacio Salvadores lifts his instrument above his head to dance, to the audience’s delight.  

King Krule’s otherworldly ambiance is heightened through the transportive setting of the Barrowland Ballroom. Opened in the 1930s and then rebuilt after a fire in the 1950s, the Ballroom is distinguished by its brilliant neon signage, rich period interiors, and vast geometric ceiling. Formerly host to artists such as The Smiths, Bowie, Oasis, and U2, playing the Ballroom can be considered a benchmark as to an artist’s ‘making it’. Twenty-nine-year-old Londoner Marshall even declares “Best venue ever!” hastily followed by a slightly bashful “It’s all right” as his opening address. The desolate, desert-like cover art of Space Heavy has been adapted to form the stage’s backdrop, and Marshall stands illuminated in heavy reds and blues, his four-piece band in silhouette around him. 

Named in tribute to the Elvis-starring film King Creole, Marshall appears modestly dressed in jeans and a shirt over t- shirt combo, his band similarly understated. His appearance is in accordance with his stage persona – or lack thereof. Though Marshall is largely the only figure clearly lit, he wears the label of frontman lightly, only addressing the crowd midway through the set and mumbling much of what precious little he chooses to share.   

Instead, he commands the attention of the room with a set list that adeptly steers the hoards through an expansive emotional range, from the fizzing and seething ‘A Lizard State’; the hopeful and commanding ‘Alone, Omen 3’ to the contemplative ‘Baby Blue’ and physically jolting ‘Half Man Half Shark’. King Krule manages to generate a mosh pit that extends to two-thirds of the floor, a sea of rhythmically swaying lighters, and a mesmerized hush as they perform ‘It’s All Soup Now’, a song only known to the most diehard of fans, due to its plugging solely on flexi discs sold at gigs. Despite being on tour in promotion of Space Heavy, released earlier this year, the setlist encapsulates much of the best from the band’s entire discography. However, with ‘Seaforth’ being Space Heavy’s most commercially successful single, its exclusion is mysterious and slightly disappointing.   

The combination of a thick, heaving crowd and rich maroon lighting creates a warm and womb-like atmosphere, engulfing and absorbing the individual into the mass. It is moving to see so many people joined in the chanting of King Krule’s existential, self-doubting lyrics, and cathartic to move to the punchy rhythms. The sound quality of the Ballroom is flawless, showcasing both King Krule and the unremarkable support act Sarah Meth at their best.  

The crowd calls for an encore and Marshall promptly complies, with a hard-hitting rendition of ‘Out Getting Ribs’. Despite the melancholy subject matter, King Krule’s tone conveys contentment, satisfaction, and even joy – can you really blame him? Spilling out of the building into the rain, exhilarated chatter conveys the show’s triumph.  

Photo courtesy of Silver Eliot.