Kaki King performed The Neck is a Bridge to the Body at Rough Trade last Thursday; it is a show where the guitar is the main focus in more ways than one. Aside from Kaki’s always captivating style, the guitar itself acts as a screen and forms the narrative of the show.
Support act Glockabelle was a breath of fresh air, her casiotone keyboard and frantic yet expert playing gives her music an intense video-game quality. Drummer Ruben Sindo Acosta also has a bit of a cartoonish vibe to him in a leopard onesie and steampunk goggles. They really are a potent duo. We’re also treated to some glockenspiel played with thimbles just to make things extra niche.
Kaki enters the stage and meticulously sets herself at the guitar, which is suspended from two stands so the projection is precise. Someone from the crowd takes a picture of Kaki on their smartphone which lights up the room, provoking a “wtf?!” reaction from her, it comes across as humorous and fortunately didn’t derail anything. The visuals are a big deal with this piece, but special mention also has to go to Kaki’s playing, who displays all her customary picking, scratching, tapping and percussive skills over the course of the night. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone who seems part of the guitar as much as her.
About halfway through the set, Glockabelle makes a cameo to add some more thimble-played glockenspiel.
Some of the visuals have changed since I saw the piece last year, and if I were being harsh I’d probably say the visual side of things was more stimulating the last time. But it also shows that this is a performance piece by both Kaki and the visual artist and there is space for change. Sometimes Kaki is driving the visuals and sometimes the visuals are dictating the music. There is an interlude of sorts with a humorous film about the life of the guitar growing up, which gives a lighthearted break from what is a show you really have to dedicate yourself to get the most from (you can watch it here, but I didn’t want to embed it directly as I think it works best as part of the show rather than independently).
The Neck is a Bridge to the Body is a unique show, and it’s heartening to see this kind of creative process get its due in terms of attendances and given a platform, ventures such as this need to be supported and I think Kaki has created something breathtaking.
For the encore, we get a piece inspired by the Philae Lander, which is just one of the most staggering achievements science has made: a 4 billion (yes, billion) mile, 10-year journey, to land on a comet. Speaking of breathtaking, she ends the show with Playing with Pink Noise