This particular concert caught me a bit off guard mostly because I haven’t kept up with the artist’s work over the last few years. This fact assisted in producing one hell of a pleasant surprise. Chicago’s City Winery produced a show that evening that was a fresh and much-needed dose of inspiration for everyone involved.
This was my first live Kaki King experience and I was blown away by how versatile and eclectic of a musician she has become over the years. The evolution of her musical taste, style, and touch since I first discovered her in the early 2000s is something that definitely deserves to be showcased. The raw talent, unique writing style, and boundless creativity that pours out of Kaki combines to make an artistic hybrid musician unlike anything I have witnessed before.
For the first few tracks of the performance Kaki sat behind her mounted and stationary guitar at the front of the stage dressed in all white to match her all white guitar. Hiding mysteriously behind her sunglasses, with a confident smirk on her face, she began to play very delicately. With every subtle stroke of her hands on the strings and every tap on the body of the guitar, new life began to emerge in the form of stunning video display on both the guitar body and the backdrop behind her. With each note played, perfectly synced up spirals and a multitude of colorful designs would blossom from everywhere on the stage. The video that played behind her and draped over her guitar ranged from organic growth like flowers, to waterfalls, and manipulated geometric shapes. This was not just a musical concert, this was a full-blown immersive artistic expression put together by miss King herself.
After a few tracks one of the stage hands began placing chairs behind Kaki. Continuing with her playful antics she pretended as if she knew nothing about anyone joining her on stage. The crowd could see through her lies, but they were certainly not prepared for the masterful string quartet that walked through the curtain to join Kaki on stage. The few tracks that followed this addition took what was already a brilliant and heartfelt performance, and added a layer of emotion and depth that I was hardly capable of handling. While this seemed like something these girls had played together and rehearsed hundreds of times, Kaki explained afterwards that this combination was impromptu and basically a lucky coincidence that both she and her incredibly talented cellist friend were in Chicago at the same time. She went on to explain that the four orchestral players were going to be playing with the legendary Eagles the following night. The talent level of these four girls was at the absolute highest caliber, and the Chicago crowd was purely lucky enough to get such a powerful and amazing addition to an already beautiful performance.
After thanking her team that was helping with the visuals and thanking Chicago for being so polite and complimenting us with “getting it,” Kaki began to explain more about her methods and techniques. After a brief discussion she pulled out a new tool that she has been experimenting with called a Passerelle. This device was quickly installed near the center of the fret board underneath the strings as the audience looked on in wonder. After some subtle adjustments and a re-tuning of the guitar, Kaki began to play a piece on the new instrument that essentially sounded like a cross between a sitar, a harp, and a guitar. The song was sincerely unique and quickly perked the interest of every audience member in the venue.
Not every musician can openly say they are carving new paths or truly doing something new to the industry, but Kaki is one of those musicians. This woman seems to be rapidly finding her footing in the music community, and I do hope she gets the spotlight she deserves. Thank you for the wonderful performance.