King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 27 May

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard's debut Edinburgh show is full of great musicianship – and a bit of indulgence

Review by Rho Chung | 29 May 2024
  • King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, the trickster gods of psychedelic rock, are playing Edinburgh for the first time. Fellow Aussies C.O.F.F.I.N opens, having stepped in for Grace Cummings on short notice. Drummer and vocalist Ben Portnoy invokes Australia's own history of genocide. He says, "Keep your eye on Palestine…You can f*cking contribute." It's a pointed and vital reminder that art can be, is, must be political. Portnoy reminds us that we have a responsibility to each other. 

King Gizzard starts out with Magma, a medium-popular track from their 2022 album Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava. It's an ambitious opening number, and the crowd takes a few minutes to warm up. Heard live, the music is thumpy and psychedelic in equal measure. The set starts out somewhat casual, even sedated, but things pick up quickly when the show enters its metal phase. The songs run together in King Gizzard's signature jam-focused style; I'm not exactly checking my watch, but many of the songs feel indulgently long, with a focus on musicianship and communication amongst the band. 

The set is accompanied by video, which is a combination of live footage and animation. The video is predictably trippy, matching the galloping pace of the music. There's a lot going on; in the first third, the spotlights seem to hit everything but the band members. Most of the physical energy comes from frontman Stu Mackenzie, who wears a kilt. There are three guitars for much of the set, and at times the sound mix obscures its individual components. Ambrose Kenny-Smith stands out on vocals, keyboard, saxophone and harmonica (among other things). Every band member performs with stunning skill, creating a robust live sound. The group really hits its stride every time they turn to each other and play together; at times like this, it feels like we are 2900 flies on the wall of their jam session. The band turns up the whimsy with an unexpected Gaia reprise. 

Mid-way through, the set takes a turn toward the band's more bluesy, psychedelic noises. The jams continue (and continue and continue); Mackenzie's boots come off and his socks go to the crowd. Barefoot, he wears his microtonal guitar like a hat. Over the two hour set, the group only stop to do a round of shots. It seems like they really enjoy each other's company, as well as ours. King Gizzard goes out on Rattlesnake, a fan favourite. If there were any stops left un-pulled, they don't stay that way for long.