Last year when I interviewed Stu Mackenzie of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard for their upcoming show at the Rock Hall, they had just released Nonagon Infinity, the first ever looping album and also the eighth album the band released since 2010. Now, less than a year later, King Gizzard flew by Cleveland at the Beachland Ballroom in support of their ninth album, Flying Microtonal Banana, the first of five albums planned for 2017.
Seeing as the band has been going non-stop for about seven years, I wondered how this show was going to play out. With seven dudes in a small tour bus driving from city to city around the country has got to grate on their nerves.
It seems, though, that the touring and the growing fan base only seems to fuel the fire more for these guys.
During a quick sound check, Mackenzie casually walked across the stage to tune up his gear and do a quick mic check. Even test strums from his custom made microtonal tuned guitar elicited cheers from the sold out crowd as the marijuana clouds drifted to the front. When the lights dimmed, the stage was lit up by Windows 95 meets bad drug trip computer rendered projections from one of your NyQuil-induced dreams. One moment a labyrinthine desert and the next a monochrome black hole of doom.
Quite frankly, the band could have done without the projections since their stage presence dominates with their music ability.
King Gizzard opened up their electric 18-song set with “Open Water” the third song off Flying Microtonal Banana. The foreboding build up from percussionists Eric Moore and Michael Cavanaugh with the added hypnotic far eastern riffs from MacKenzie was just the right amount to get peoples’ bodies writhing along.
Like many concerts I’ve seen, I assumed the second song would be a soul-splitting anthem from Nonagon Infinity, but King Gizzard had other plans.
Instead, the band went into the bluesy chill “Anoxia”, also off Flying Microtonal Banana (FMB). And then another song, and another, and another — all from their latest release. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed FMB, but the setlist was not what I expected as most bands love to play up the audience and tease them with songs from albums past.
Then again, King Gizz has always strived to go against the grain and keep innovating. During the eerie ballad “Billabong Valley”, Ambrose Kenny Smith, who also fronts the band The Murlocs, leant his vocals which proved to be a nice change from playing on the stage sidelines of synths and harmonica. FMB favorite “Rattle Snake” came towards the middle of the set when everyone’s alcohol had finally made it into their bloodstreams and served as the perfect opportunity for the crowd surfing to start including a real life man dressed as a banana.
After playing almost all of Flying Microtonal Banana, the septet railed into 4 songs off their post-apocalyptic upcoming album Murder of the Universe (out June 23rd). It was a great preview of what’s to come from this new concept album, with “Alter Me”, “Altered Beast 2”, “Alter Me 2”, and “Altered Beast 3”.
And just as I had thought it wouldn’t happen, Stu and crew blew everyone away seamlessly transitioning into “Robot Stop”.
Within the first few beats, the crowd had already started losing its mind, convulsing into each other and spraying beer into the air. My quiet friend who wanted to hang back threw himself into the crowd, getting swallowed up by the thrashing of bodies. Of course with “Robot Stop” comes “Gamma Knife” and “People Vultures” off of Nonagon Infinity.
Winding down the set, King Gizzard debuted a couple more songs off the upcoming Murder of the Universe before ending with “Am I in Heaven?” which turned into a medley of “Rattle Snake”, “Alter Me”, “Robot Stop” and others. When the last note was played, and the guys exited stage left, the crowd cheered for more.
But I thought to myself, “What could have topped what we just witnessed?”
After a nearly 90 minute set of nonstop face-melting music explosions, there was nothing that could have made it better. It was perfection that left my body humming, and I hope they come back five more times this year for each album.
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Judie Vegh likes to believe she knows how to use a camera. You can find her at a show in Cleveland or within a 4 hour radius thereof, and posting reviews and interviews on BGM way past its deadline.