By Casey Schwochow
I had the pleasure of seeing Elle King perform for the third time in Michigan this year. This recent leg is in support of her debut full-length album Love Stuff. The tour theme was to not only treat the audience to her music, but also to conduct a wedding during each performance (More on that later).
Elle King, decked out in a kimono and a blue wig, kicked off her set with “Last Damn Night” and I quickly noticed the new addition to her band: a trombone player. He wildly ran back and forth on the stage, aiming his instrument to the crowd as if he was feeding off their energy.
Elle King ditched the kimono and blue wig then called on the opener, Paul Cauthen, to join her for a rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. They shared guitar and vocal duties, and the crowd absolutely loved it.
During “Under The Influence,” Elle grabbed a fan’s phone and took selfies as she sang. She then moved on to another audience members phone and proceeded to do the same thing. She respectfully handed the phones back to their owners after producing the greatest concert souvenir I’m sure they could ever dream of.
Elle’s last Detroit show took place in January at the Majestic Theatre and is remembered by those in attendance as the “Elle King was wasted” show. When seeing her over the summer at the Keloorah Festival, I brought up last Detroit show, she remembered it, and she told me, “I was so wasted at that show.”
Tonight she admitted the last show at The Majestic wasn’t her best and she wanted to make up for it. However, she told us she was once again drunk. She seemed to learn her lesson, though. This time around at least there were no forgotten lyrics and a lot less expletives. Most of Elle’s charm comes from living the Rock N’ Roll lifestyle, and it makes for a great show. She walks the line and sometimes stumbles over it, but you take the good with the bad.
Elle slowed it down for the song “See You Again”. She sang with only her guitar player gracing the stage. It came out sincerely and emotionally and highlighted Elle’s vocal ability.
Elle even gave the audience a chance to pick if she did a solo song or a new song at one point in the set. She asked for cell phone lights for solo and cheers for a new song. The audience reaction saw her choosing a new song entitled “Speaking Tongues” which made full use of her band. The song featured Elle on Banjo with a slow, twangy country style to start, then it burst into a high energy knee-slapper, with the trombone player once again giving his all.
That wasn’t the only new song from Elle. She would later perform “The Compromise” with the introduction, “Hi I’m Elle and I get kicked out of a lot of places. I wrote this song to be let back into these places.”
Elle King writes songs about things she knows and experiences. She really embodies the spirit of the lyrics and the pop princess persona that the crowd full of young girls and families bringing their young children may place on her can easily be shattered when they see her live. She’s raw and real and when she asked the audience “Are you just here for “Ex’s and Oh’s?” shows me she is well aware of both sides of her fan base. Parents with young children may think twice next time they think about bringing them, because nothing is off limits at a Elle King show. She may have pop chart hits, but her show is just as raw as any band you may see on a warped tour stage.
After a fantastic performance of “Ain’t Gonna Drown” Elle donned a long white robe and invited a couple on the stage so she could officiate their wedding. She asked us in the audience if we believed in love and stated, “Yes, I’m a fuckin’ minster.” The ceremony was full of expletives that were used in good fun. The couple, Jen and Aaron, also had some choice swear words proclaiming their love for each other. After the wedding came an onstage proposal from a young man named Art, to his girl, Trish. She said “yes,” then Elle and the band broke into their rendition of the Beatles “Oh Darling” while both couples danced in each other’s arms on stage.
Elle’s biggest single and first encore of the evening was “Ex’s & Oh’s” followed by “America’s Sweetheart”. Elle lifted up her vintage Blue Oyster Cult T-shirt to expose her bra during the line “They said I’ll never be the poster type, but they don’t make posters of my kind of life.”
It’s been a fantastic year for Elle King here in Michigan. I’m looking forward to a new album release and more shows in the near future. We can’t wait, because Elle has yet to disappoint.
Last Damn Night
Good for Nothin’ Woman
Good to Be a Man
I Told You I Was Mean
Folsom Prison Blues (with Paul Cauthen )
Chain Smokin, Hard Drinkin, Woman
Under the Influence
See You Again
Song of Sorrow
Where The Devil Don’t Go
Ain’t Gonna Drown
–Wedding & Proposal–
Oh! Darling (The Beatles cover)
Ex’s & Oh’s
Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (Aretha Franklin cover)