Monday, March 16, 2015

Blood, Leather and Bears: The King Khan & BBQ Show Rocked the Duck Room 3/14/2015

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:02 AM

King Khan looks out over his kingdom. - KELLY GLUECK
  • Kelly Glueck
  • King Khan looks out over his kingdom.

By Jenn DeRose

The King Khan & BBQ Show has had a rough couple of years as a band in general, but its relationship with St. Louis seems especially complicated. After an infamous run-in with the police before a show at Off Broadway in 2009, the duo went through a very well-documented breakup that lasted close to six years, devastating devoted fans.

See also: Our Full Slideshow of the Event

Arish Ahmad Khan and Mark Sultan released several stellar albums independently, but their reliably excellent collaborations as a duo were sorely missed. The news of its reunion and subsequent tour with the Black Lips in the fall of 2014 was well-received by fans and critics alike. The duo played St. Louis in September 2014 at the Ready Room to a sizable crowd, racing through its set as the Black Lips' opening act.

This weekend, the King Khan & BBQ Show returned, this time to Blueberry Hill's Duck Room on March 14 to support Bad News Boys, its first album in six years.

Khan first interacted with the crowd at the Duck Room when he came onstage to introduce his touring opener: the sultry, mildly psychedelic, country-flavored Milk Lines, hailing from Khan and Sultan's native Toronto. Wearing a coonskin cap and sunglasses, Khan assured the crowd that Milk Lines "drank from the same teat Chuck Berry gave to the world." This was his stamp of approval, summoning the name of the founding father of rock & roll, and was the first of several mostly reverential references to Berry during the evening.

Milk Lines - KELLY GLUECK
  • Kelly Glueck
  • Milk Lines

After Milk Lines finished, the King Khan & BBQ Show entered the stage to Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure," clad in elaborate costumes -- Khan and Sultan's stage outfits have evolved from the whimsical to the absurd over the years. This tour, Khan was dressed in crisscrossed leather bondage straps, fully studded (much like Bo Diddley's outfit on the cover of The Black Gladiator) with a golden mirrored codpiece and a matching golden cape made of shiny satin. Sultan dressed in a black jumpsuit with nipple holes cut out and what looked to be a golden oversize diaper covering his loins. Both wore leather masks and short blonde wigs that, coupled with their round, proud bellies, magnified the disturbing effect of their costumes.

The two began the set with "Chuck a Muck," a tribute to Chuck Berry composed of licks lovingly lifted from a few of Berry's songs, while Khan duck-walked across the stage, obviously delighting in the meta experience. The tribute morphed into "Fish Fight," a punk anthem from the group's first album. There would few reprieves for the rest of the relentless set.

The amount of noise this duo is able to make is impressive. Khan played a Guild Starfire copy (the same guitar Muddy Waters played on his eclectic classic Electric Mud) while Sultan performed on a drum kit composed of a snare drum set on its side -- played by a pedal on his right foot -- with a tambourine wedged underneath, a bass drum on his left foot and a Supro guitar in his lap. They divided their vocals pretty evenly during the set. Khan fronted most of the strictly punk songs and Sultan sang most of the ballads; Khan provided bass lines through doo-wop vocal harmonies. Sultan backed Khan-heavy songs with his uncanny ability to mimic the sound of an electric jug as played by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, using only his mouth.

Mark Sultan, a.k.a. BBQ, a one-man band. - KELLY GLUECK
  • Kelly Glueck
  • Mark Sultan, a.k.a. BBQ, a one-man band.

Sultan was trapped by his one-man-band setup, unable to dance, but he made up for it with Sid Vicious snarls and frantic, Exorcist-style head-twisting. Khan, on the other hand, was free to move -- and move he did, shaking his barely dressed booty at a crowd that squealed in delight, propping up his legs suggestively on the monitors, shimmying like a snake and occasionally vanishing into the audience as though he was walking into a deep pool.

His antics, unfortunately, eventually led to bloodshed. Between "Hold Me Tight" (which began with the opening licks of Hasil Adkins' "She Said") and "Treat Me Like a Dog," Khan accidentally kicked a worshiper in the face with his shiny black boots, and blood streamed between his eyes.

"Now you have to kiss it," quipped Sultan.

Khan, although clearly upset for hurting a fan, could not resist a joke: "These boots were made for walkin'," he replied. Both of them stopped their set for a moment to apologize and give the injured fellow a three-foot plastic bear that was part of their stage set. The bleeding man seemed mollified, and proudly waved his bear in the air for the remainder of the show.

Continue to page two for more.

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