By George! The Beatles are Bjorn again

Rock: It's official; Kula Shaker prove that George Harrison is now to be taken seriously. So how long till Ringo gets a tribute band?

Indie Bands! Claim your Beatle while stocks last! Oasis have already taken to projecting John Lennon's photo onto their backdrops, and on Thursday at the Manchester Apollo, Kula Shaker were watched over paternally by George Harrison. Someone had better bagsy Paul and Ringo while they're still available.

The hippy hippy shakers delivered a slick yet dynamic show. The tireless drumming and Sir Paul-style bass were as dizzying as the kaleidoscope of lights and images - some of which weren't associated with the Beatles. There were a few too many indistinct funk-rock numbers, but the cherubic Crispian Mills sang and played guitar with sweaty conviction.

Just to reinforce their allegiance to the Beatles, the four-piece opened with a souped-up "Baby, You're a Rich Man". They moved on to their own songs afterwards, but the nagging impression was that those were cover versions, too, and that Kula Shaker were a kind of Bjorn Again with lovebeads. After all, how many people actually take Mills's vague spiritual pronouncements seriously, Mystic Meg fans excepted?

Thirty years ago, the sound of a sitar on a pop record evoked the magical East. Now, the sound of a sitar on a pop record evokes the songs you skip on Sergeant Pepper. Likewise, while having hit singles whose lyrics are in Sanskrit and Hindi is both an unique achievement and a testament to an adventurous spirit, Kula fans are less likely to go along with the mix-and-match mysticism than they are to sing along and think: isn't it clever how they sound just like a real psychedelic band? Underworld's "Born Slippy", say, could be called genuine contemporary psychedelia, whereas the off-the-peg brand sported by Kula Shaker is no longer exploratory, it's an imitable, self-conscious genre. The gig's most hazy, trippy episode was "Jerry Was There", and that song admits it's only a joke.

There's no doubt that the band have mastered the performing side of things. Now Mills must back up his melodic talent with some recognisable emotional content if he doesn't want his songs to sound like a pasticheur's exercises. If possible, he should look less scrubbed and styled, too. "You treat me like a woman when I feel like a man," he roars on "Hey Dude". Yes, Crispian, but you look like a boy.

The other big retro band of the week were Georgia's Black Crowes, who are often disparaged for copying their rootsy Southern rock'n'roll from the Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Copying Kula Shaker, though, is taking things too far. On Monday, a multi-armed Eastern goddess was painted on the backdrop, and a sitar tape twanged and twirled before the show. I don't think Chris Robinson was singing in Sanskrit, but as I couldn't understand a word he hollered, I can't guarantee it.

If the Crowes were trying to lend the Bristol Colston Hall a loose and mellow atmosphere, they were battling impossible odds. Despite its name, the Hall is an old-fashioned theatre, complete with a tinkling bell to warn the audience when it's time to take their stiff-backed seats. A few songs in, though, I realised that only a bad rock-star blames his venues. If the gig-goers seemed more like play-goers, it was because the music deteriorated once guitar replaced sitar.

The Black Crowes are very proud of their hard-won technical dexterity - Eddie Harsch plays a mean electric piano - but they've been so busy wearing their fingers to the bone in the rehearsal studio that they haven't got round to writing any tunes. Almost every song was mid-paced and unfocused, never reaching any kind of climax, and never stretching beyond the band's influences. A walk down the Crowe Road is no substitute for Exile on Main Street.

Chris Robinson, whose elongated frame makes Jarvis Cocker look like Robbie Williams on a bad day, attempted some stumblebum dancing. His bandmates should change their name to the Black Dodoes. They're zombies, and who can blame them? One hundred minutes of their torturous music left me stultified, and they've had to listen to it for years.

As it happens, their fourth album, Three Snakes and One Charm (American Recordings), has plenty of heart, soul and muscle, so it may be just their ponderous live show that needs work. It might have helped slightly if they'd borrowed some of Kula Shaker's Carnaby Street fashions. In the Nineties, when pop stars wear kagoules on TV, and every known garment can be justified as kitsch or ironic or so-bad-it's-good, it's not easy to look utterly, shockingly unstylish. The Black Crowes manage it.

Motorhead are retro too in a sense, but only because, musically, they haven't budged an inch in over 20 years. Lemmy has effectively written the same song over and over again - revving T-Rex riffs played at seven times the speed, then the song title bellowed a couple of times for the chorus - and the draft entitled "Ace of Spades" still sounds better than all the others. At the London Astoria last Sunday, the man who theologists confirm as having the voice of Satan himself had a relatively new guitarist and drummer to back up his brutal fuzz-bass chords. None the less, Motorhead make the Ramones seem like restless sonic explorers.

Judging by the number of beer cans thrown on stage, this straightforward and slightly boring show seemed to please the fans. For the rest of us, there was little of note except that the lovably cantankerous 51-year- old has finally shaved off his moustache.

Kula Shaker: Glasgow Barrowlands (0141 552 4601), Mon & Tues; Academy, SW9 (0171 924 9999), Thurs & Fri; then touring. Black Crowes: Southampton Guildhall (01703 632601), tonight; then touring in Feb.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    PPC Co-Ordinator – Permanent - West Sussex – £24-£30k

    £24000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Are you a Marketin...

    Senior Asset Manager

    £70000 - £75000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Katie Robinson +44 (...

    SEN British Sign Language Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: BSL teachers required to teach in a...

    Chemistry Teacher

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We require an experienced Chemis...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor