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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
i100(More than you think)
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
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

    Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

    £20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Executive - Software

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + 55,000 OTE + benifits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Software Sa...

    Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

    £20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

    Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton; £400p/d

    £400 - £420 per day: Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?