Elle King made a troublesome confession at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Friday. After conspicuously smoking an unidentified substance and sipping from a red Solo cup while belting out the devilish lyrics of the insinuating blues song “Chain Smokin’, Hard Drinkin’ Woman,” she told the audience of more than 1,000 that “I’m drunk.”
The subsequent selection “Under the Influence” opened with the vexing line “just another morning with shaky hands, pounding head.” Much of King’s 90-minute captivating outing was devoted to songs about hard living. King opened her show with “Last Damn Night,” a thunderously decadent composition in which she suggests that “I got one hand on the bottle and one foot in the grave.”
People who were only familiar with King’s bouncy breakout hit “Ex’s and Oh’s” were likely dumbfounded by King’s intemperate exhibition of roots-based music. Although a few of the songs on her 2015 debut album “Love Stuff” have been embraced by alternative rock radio stations, King isn’t a natural fit for the format. She demonstrated her affinity for country, blues and R&B on Friday.
King is the daughter of comedian Rob Schneider, but there’s little about her that smacks of Hollywood. The shattered folk of “Kocaine Karolina” and the obstinate country of “Good To Be a Man” resembled the efforts of a native of Mississippi rather than King’s actual birthplace of Los Angeles.
King repeatedly bragged about her rebellious streak. In her introduction to the barroom stomp of “Good For Nothin’ Woman,” she recalled that “one time some girls hurt my feelings… I beat them up.” She admitted that “I’ve been kicked out of a lot of places in my life” before showcasing her raspy howl on “The Compromise.” A cover of the Aretha Franklin hit “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” stretched her voice even further. King possesses only a modicum of Franklin’s power, but she spat, growled and screeched her way through the soul classic with admirable authority.
After presiding over an informal vow renewal ceremony, King and her five-piece backing band serenaded a couple with a rendition of the Beatles’ “Oh! Darling.” The gesture was a pleasing respite from King’s boasts about her reckless behavior.
Her fans have to hope that King isn’t really living out the lethal lyrics of her provocative songs. Rock and roll — as well as country, blues and R&B — needs her.
Last Damn Night
Good for Nothin' Woman
Good to Be a Man
I Told You I Was Mean
Folsom Prison Blues
Chain Smokin’, Hard Drinkin’ Woman
Under the Influence
See You Again
Back Off, Satan (possible title of new song)
Ain't Gonna Drown
Where the Devil Don't Go
Ex's & Oh's
I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)