Review: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Alexandra Palace
You’re never sure what quite to expect from a King Gizzard gig, their music back catalogue as eclectic as it is dense. A band who once turned out five albums in a single year, experimenting with everything from Thrash Metal to Shoegaze and Twee Folk to Acid Rock.
But tonight, in the cavernous Alexandra Palace, it’s all about meandering energies and a wholesome psychedelic mid-range.
A doomish opening sequence immediately brings focus to the stage, the anticipation in the room erupting into a flurry of pints and flailing arms before the wide-eyed rockers have even begun to warm up. A hectic precedent set for the evening.
Several minutes in, with the crowd sufficiently amped, the always animate Stu Mackenzie announces “we’re gonna play some older stuff!”. With cheers still resonating around the space, they launch into an impossibly tight rendition of ‘Cellophane’, the mood shifting from savage metal into manic acid textures and liquid solos.
Huddled centre stage, the band’s heightened understanding of camaraderie and creative-sync is brought forth to bear. Their movements and interactions on stage as infectious as the driving sonic-narratives they create. But as is the case with many a live show, how you capitalise on the other senses can be the difference between dull showcase and memorable experience – regardless of stage virtuosity. Thankfully, the Kings benefitted from the latter.
Illuminating in endless colour palettes an immense screen backgrounds the performance. Much in line with the group’s far-out aesthetic, the visuals glitch, melt and swirl like an intense acid trip replayed on a worn VHS. A brief fade to black is quickly disrupted by a familiar, glowing-red nonagon. And with it: a downtempo opener to ‘Evil Death Roll’ that slowly climbs into peak throttle.
Having spent considerable time on the close-quarter DIY circuit, one might fear the King Gizzard sound would be lost in the hulking arches of such a grand arena. But, as reaffirmed by some admiring nearby audiophiles, the acoustics hit all the sweet spots. Feeling as much as hearing every lick and drum kick. “Quite different to the Shacklewell Arms” jokes Stu, a humble nod to just how far they’ve come.
Beyond the halfway mark, playing into the twists and turns of a vast discography, things slip into chuggy, country-blues territory with ‘Plastic Boogie’ and ‘Boogieman Sam’. Testament to a profound ability to merge seemingly disparate styles into a cohesive story ark.
A few organs and glazed melodies later and the eve is plunged back into grittier thralls. After being painfully reminded that there is no ‘Planet B’ – fresh, jagged Gizz evoking the turmoil of the time – it’s anthemic chanter ‘Rattlesnake’ that provokes the wildest reaction.
It’s a well-calculate and measured setlist backed by playful showmanship and a captivating light display. Off the back of a suitably slow closing number King Gizzard offer one last tribute to the fans amidst roaring ovation: “You all look great out there. It’s very surreal for us to be up here but we can’t thank you enough for supporting the night!”. Placing bets… this won’t be the last adoring audience they’ll be thanking.
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