Cheers and screams echo through Toronto’s Rebel last Sunday as Archy Marshall a.k.a King Krule lethargically graced the stage. The energy of the crowd and that of Marshall’s appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. He strolls out dressed in baggy thrift-store clothing, with a beer in hand and a hunched posture, muttering to his band mates. The crowd erupts. For a split second, his calm, unfazed and sluggish demeanour makes you forget the raw unsteady power of his vocals and the demanding passion embedded in his music; that is until he picks up the mic.
Marshall has put out music under a slew of different aliases including Zoo Kid, Edgar the Beatmaker, The Return of Pimp Shrimp and more. But it was following the success of ‘6 Feet Beneath the Moon’in 2013 under King Krule, when he began to garner international attention and gain a cult-like following. He has been praised for his piercing vocals, poetic song-writing and genre-blending abilities which have all been refined and carried over to his latest album ‘The Ooz,’ where he has chosen to take listeners on a deeper journey into his jarred and troubled psyche.
Despite the ‘The Ooz’ being the title album for the tour, Marshall did a nice job of balancing out the show with cuts from ‘6 Feet Beneath the Moon’and ‘King Krule’. Adding a level of raw punk energy to his entire set, Marshall opened the night with almost unrecognizable versions of ‘Has This Hit’ and ‘Ceiling’ and ferociously tore through songs like ‘Dum Surfer’ and ‘Rock Bottom’.
Watching Marshall perform is to witness a man possessed by his art, and it is his unrestrained drive and fury that remind the audience why they bought their tickets. It also serves to warn the crowd early on that they can expect more unrefined and high-energy versions of their favourite tracks.
Halfway through the show Marshall takes to the keyboard to slow things down, performing songs such as ‘Biscuit Town’, ‘Cementality’ and ‘(A Slide In) New Drugs’. Live, these songs instrumentation sounds fuller, giving a chance for the band to showcase their technical skills and for the audience to appreciate the little things; the melting saxophone on ‘Czech One,’ the crisp guitar chords for ‘Biscuit Town’.
Contrastingly, his performance of songs like ‘Half Man Half Shark’ and ‘Emergency Blimp’ have an unhinged intensity. Lyrics appear to escape out of his throat in powerful bursts. His energy is urgent. His eyes fixate deeply beyond the crowd and his body contorts with every beat. However, this intensity comes to a halt between songs, as he appears to come back down to earth, only to have a sip of beer, mumble a few thank you’s and introduce the next song. It’s a scene similar to that of the Hulk turning back into Bruce Banner and looking around at all the damage he has caused. But for Marshall, instead of waking to destroyed buildings and trashed police cars, it’s the aftermath of a rowdy mosh-pit and now hundreds of gazing eyes.
For the last portion of the show, Marshall returns to the crowds ‘6 Feet’favourites, performing an extended version of ‘Baby Blue’, belting out ‘Easy Easy’ and returning for a show-stopping encore of ‘Out Getting Ribs’; all of which ended up being highlight moments of the night.
For some fans, such as those who were hoping to hear their preferred songs note for note, Marshall’s erratic energy and abrasive delivery may have felt a bit disjointed and chaotic. But just like his music, his live show feels exploratory and full of life and it is his refusal to tidy up his performance that makes it so appealing. It’s this same nonchalant, unpolished, not-giving-a-fuck persona that continuously intrigues and inspires, especially considering the raw talent backing it up. It’s coming from the same aspect of his character we adore when he chooses to turn down working with Kanye West or casually brush off Beyonce’s praise.
Marshall has made one thing very clear: his style and his art won’t be tamed and he’s not going listen to anyone but himself. He’s a loner and his music is messy and passionate, but judging by Toronto’s crowd that’s just how his fans like him.