Local Current Blog

Review: Elle King charms the pants off the Varsity Theater

Photos by Bridget Bennett for MPR

When your best-known number is a cover of an explicit song about oral sex and your dad is a Saturday Night Live star, the odds of a career as a respectable musician wouldn’t seem to be in your favor. Whether or not Elle King ever set out to be “respectable,” when her first full-length album dropped this year to critical acclaim, all bets were off. King has a soulful conviction in both her voice and her songwriting; now, she’s on a headlining tour that sold out the Varsity Theater last night.

Gliding on stage with a drink in hand, King introduced herself to the crowd by raising her cup, taking a sip, grabbing her guitar, and going right into the first song of her set, “Jackson.” Her thick, raspy voice rattled the venue to its foundation. King switched between guitar and banjo, sometimes dropping the instruments and grooving onstage alongside her band, clad in a flowing white skirt that could barely keep up with her dancing. She asked the crowd jokingly, “Do I look like a virgin?”

King’s amusing banter was filed with jokes and anecdotes; in a 17-song set, she dropped more f-bombs than I think I ever have in my life. She introduced “Good To Be a Man” by saying that she’s only been dumped once—and it won’t happen again. When she sang, “To be a man would be just fine/ My only worry would be my receding hairline,” a man in the front row lifted up his hat and King paused to say sorry.

Despite King’s sense of humor, her music is no joke. “See You Again” was delivered with so much emotion I thought she was going to burst into tears at any moment. When it was over, she let out a long sigh and wiped under her eyes. Let it be known, that this girl has soul.

Nearing the end of King’s set she pulled Piper Robison, the bassist for openers Gene Jr and The Family, up on stage and made the whole crowd say happy birthday to her. Gene Jr and The Family hail from Joshua Tree, California and describe themselves as “world groove vibration.” They delivered some groovy instrumentals, and were a fairly good pick for a warm-up to Elle King.

King closed her encore with “My Neck My Back,” which the crowd eagerly sang along to. Just another night—by which I mean, actually, a very special night—at the Varsity Theater.

Set List

Jackson
Can’t Be Loved
Good To Be a Man
Good For Nothing Woman
Where the Devil Don’t Go
I Told You I Was Mean
Song of Sorrow
Playing for Keeps
Kocaine Karolina
See You Again
Oh! Darling (Beatles cover)
Under the Influence
Ex’s & Oh’s
Last Damn Night
Ain’t Gonna Drown
Encore
America’s Sweetheart
My Neck My Back (Khia cover)

Listen to Elle King’s performance in our studios this spring.

Gene Jr and The Family

Elle King

Bridget Bennett is a student at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.