Fresh off a critically-acclaimed stop at the Newport Folk Festival, Kingsley Flood hit the Mercury Lounge stage last night with some old, some new and some even newer tunes. The six-piece folk-rock ensemble only released their most recent album, Battles, in February, but they came prepared with a handful of songs that are more recent still, making sure that even the hardcore fans would be experiencing something new. The band barely squeezed themselves and their arsenal of instruments onto the tiny Merc stage, but with brass and woodwind sections in tow, they began what proved to be a thoughtful, well-crafted and extremely entertaining set.
Many comparisons have been made between Kingsley and any number of vintage-leaning folk-rock bands. But oddly enough, as the show progressed, a modern B-52’s vibe jumped out. Well, the B-52s if they had a lovechild with the Fratellis, and that lovechild owned a violin. Especially in songs like Strongman and Down, where singers Jenée Morgan (the only lady in the group) and Naseem Khuri sing-talk a lot of the verses and choruses in a really fun but aggressive way, reminiscent of everyone’s favorite ‘80s new wave band.
But there is a softer side to Kingsley as well, of course. “Our music is kind of about the guy that does everything right yet still falls behind,” said Khuri before sliding into Waiting on the River to Rise, a song about and dedicated to a good friend that had passed away last year. As Khuri sang, the room became so incredibly quiet that the sound of his boots gently tapping out the beats could be heard without difficulty. It was a beautiful moment, and a good reminder of how powerful an amazing live performance can be.
Throughout the night, a gradual girl crush was formed on Morgan, as she pulled out instrument after instrument, rocking each in its turn. Tambourine? No problem. Violin? Yeah, got that too. Oh, saxophone? Sure, why not. All these little touches, including the trumpet (played by keyboardist Chris Barrett), create such a full and lush sound. There is no empty space in Kingsley’s music—remove one layer and there are about a hundred more waiting behind it.
That’s what’s so great about Kingsley Flood, they leave little surprises here and there. The face-melting guitar solos, for example, are not something that one expects to hear in the midst of jig-y jams, but there they are, and they work. Part of it obviously has to do with the pure talent of the musicians at hand. It’s clear that they understand composition, and how to take a solo and all of those technical things. But outside of that, the creativity in genre-crossing is what separates Kingsley Flood from the rest. They aren’t stuck in a niche, they branch out into other areas, allowing themselves to improve their solid folk base without making things convoluted and messy.