Last Monday, the three gracious girls, who call themselves by the majestic moniker KING, were all smile at the Bootleg Theater, where they had just started their June residency. The place was packed and people in the crowd were visibly big fans of their soft, silky harmonies that immediately reminded me about Stevie Wonder’s early music.
The person who introduced them said they were going to make a big splash on the music scene, and, looking at the crowd around me, I thought they may have already had done just that. The story of Anita Bias, Paris Strother and Amber Strother is simply amazing, just imagine being asked by his highness Prince to open for him at the Forum in front of 17, 000 people when you are almost completely unknown and have only released a three-song EP online! But this is precisely the incredible story that happened to them in 2011.
Beside Prince, who has become a mentor and advisor to them, Roots’ drummer Questlove, Erykah Badu and Phonte Coleman of The Foreign Exchange were already big fans of their music and in a short amount of time there was a fuliginous online buzz, and twitter got on fire for KING. And there is everything to admire about the trio as the three women did everything by themselves, they wrote, produced and are currently performing their own material. At the Bootleg, the different artworks behind them were representing the three women as African princesses or rather queens, in sunshine colors, but there is nothing princess-like either in their DIY R&B, and ‘The Story’, the title of their first EP, seems to be only the beginning of their story as they are currently working on a full-length album.
Their voices were complementing themselves extremely well, their layered and complex harmonies were very precise, almost flexible in the way they were done, and the music was heartwarming, fluid and loose with some jazzy flavors. I have totally distanced myself from the current R&B trend, I don’t recognize anything I like in mega-artists like Rihanna, Usher, Beyonce or Miguel, and I thought the kind of R&B I used to like was long gone, but, on Monday night, King was bringing it back to the spotlight with soul-warming harmonies and wobbling keys. It was not about some fake or real nostalgia, it was about sincerity and being true to what you like and feel, as everything I have read about these girls demonstrates they were obviously not looking for fame and fortune.
The silky voices were effortlessly spiraling around each other, the warm harmonies were repeatedly cascading one after another, and there were some soft finger clapping, or some more obvious hand clapping. Multi instrumentalist Paris was making all the music behind Anita and Amber’s ethereal and lush vocal harmonies, carrying the crowd in the high spheres of R&B heaven, to drink fountains of their honey voices! People were literally high of joy on this sweet, soulful, gospelic sound, shouting some ‘yes!’ of satisfaction, especially during the very Stevie-Wonder-esque ‘Supernatural’…singing along ‘There’s magic in everything you do/Supernatural’, and soon the room was full of love exhaling from the audience, reaching a level of ecstasy-like ambiance I rarely feel from a crowd at a concert!
During the whole show, the three women hadn’t moved a lot, just some arm movements and a few subtle hip balancing, but it was appropriate for their soft tunes. They even performed a new song, ‘You are the first ones to hear this’, said one of them, and left the stage asking, with these same smiles that hadn’t left their faces since the beginning of the show, how many of us would come back next week. This was an easy question as the fans had acclaimed ‘Hey’ or ‘In the Meantime’ with cheers and applause, and it’s certain all of them will be back to the Bootleg each Monday of June.
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