One could easily write an entire concert review of just Kaki King’s between-song banter. The Brooklyn-based performer is an utter charmer on stage, using every break between songs to tell stories about her life and share her perspective on her world.
On Friday at The State Room, those tales included celebrating her three-week marriage anniversary, and listing off whether or not her marriage is recognized in different states and countries her tour is visiting: “New York–yes, Canada–no problem, New Jersey–not married,” etc. She talked about her drive from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, dreaming of finding her way to a float in the Great Salt Lake, only to find a winter wonderland when she got to town. She gave props to her dining experiences at the Copper Onion and Himalayan Kitchen, and hyped her new album, Glow, in a completely winning and confident way–”It’s great!”
Yes, you could stick to King’s lovely stage persona, but really, her shows are all about her amazing guitar-playing. It’s a mesmerizing thing, enthralling the crowd filling the venue and hushing them to silence in awe of the intricate movements of her hands on a series of acoustic guitars. At various points, she had a guitar on her lap as she picked at the strings, pedal-steel-style, or hammered at the strings on the neck with all 10 fingers, or played out percussive beats on the guitar’s body while she manipulated the strings on the neck with her other hand.
It was a truly impressive display, and her playing delved into everything from traditional folk, to jazz, to classical and Celtic and rock over the course of the night. The set had a lot of songs from Glow, naturally, and they were great. Among the highlights from that album on Friday night were “Kelvinator, Kelvinator,” “The Fire Eater,” “Bowen Island” and “King Pizel.”
She talked about writing the older song “Jessica” when she was just 15, and related how funny it was that she ended up marrying a woman named Jessica 17 years later. “Carmine Street” from her album Everybody Loves You was a particularly strong performance as well.
You could say that for pretty much every song, though. King’s compositions are so diverse and complex, the listener gets sucked into a series of three- and four-minute aural journeys, particularly when she’s performing live. Here’s hoping we get to see her do it again soon.