KING live at Blue Note Hawaii

We Are King LP

With vocal stylings that pay tribute to an era when R&B was airy and lush, KING’s stripped-down synthesized approach goes beyond being just an homage to 90s idols like Sade and SWV. While their arpeggiating arrangements are more akin to electro-pop groups of the early 80s, Paris Strother, pianist and composer of the band, delicately weaves layers of analog synth, horns, and enveloping strings over soft beats transforming it into a family of the future neo-soul species that we can all groove to. Amber Strother—Paris’s twin sister—and Anita Bias fill the spaces in between with their velvety vocals transporting the listener out of their body on the heavy bass lines heard in songs like “the right one” and “native land”.

In 2011 KING’s self-released debut EP seemed to have come out of nowhere, and in 2016 the group put out a full LP titled “We Are KING”. And the acclaim they’ve received from artist like Prince, Questlove, and Kendrick Lamar isn’t just hype. Their credentials go deep, and in the past members of KING have collaborated with heavy hitters like Jill Scott, Robert Glaspar Experiment, and Eric Roberson to name a few. Although their lyrics might be lacking complexity, the texture and color of their voices give their words meaning that can’t be conveyed through syntax and semantics. Every song on this album will get stuck in your head at some point, and the extended version of “Hey” and “Supernatural” stretch out the spaced-out listening experience in the best way imaginable.

KING at Blue Note HI

Two weekends ago Honolulu was treated to the dreamy pop R&B trio two nights in a row at the Blue Note Hawaii. I was able to go to the first show, and it was spectacular! Everything about this band is understated, humble, and sweet natured which made it easy to fall in love with their live performance. They walked onstage—not a pretentious strut, more like a stroll—in matching embroidered Hill tribe-esque knee length jackets and platform shoes. After brief introductions the bass hit, and the heavens opened up in the dim lit horse-shoe shaped club. Amber’s nails were long and semi-translucent catching the blue lights like a prisms scattering light on everyone as she sang. The key board station was setup in the center with two singers on either side. We were uncomfortably close to the stage considering it wasn’t a packed house, but the group still filled the room with high energy. It was like sitting in on a rehearsal with the band floating 4 feet above the ground. There was no crescendo in the performance or hana hou; rather it was smooth and meditative. That might sound lame to some, but to me it felt very personal and full of love.

KING at Blue Note HI

Here’s their set-list from the night:

1. Mr. Chameleon

2. The Greatest (Ali)

3. The Right One

4. Oh, Please!

5. Carry On

6. Red eye

7. Hey

8. The Story

9. Supernatural

10. In the Meantime

11. Love Song

12. Native Land

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