The stage was bathed in blue lights, a deep blue that cast an almost purplish haze.
The three performers, dressed in black with lots of bracelets and fancy hair piled high, took the stage at the Icehouse in south Minneapolis just before midnight on Friday night.
For the next 53 minutes, King delivered the kind of hushed, inventive and captivating performance that suggests they will be one of the more intriguing acts to emerge in 2016.
Amber Strother, the co-lead singer, and her older sister Paris, the main composer and lone instrumentalist onstage, are from Minneapolis, and they moved to Los Angeles a few years ago where they formed King with Anita Bias.
The trio has crafted a gauzy, jazzy, soulful sound with complex vocal harmonies and subtle rhythms and washes. They are intoxicating live with a vibe that’s warmer than their breezy, atmospheric debut album, “We Are King,” which was released early this month.
“Their sound wraps you in a blanket,” said the stranger next to me. Her description was perfect.
It was hard to tell who was having a better time – the sell-out crowd or King, especially the Strother sisters who were blushingly thrilled with the hometown reception. (They didn’t mention that Prince and his band were in the house.)
Amber had a sultry soprano, Bias a lush alto. Sometimes their voices were in unison, sometimes in harmony. When they’d lock into an organic groove and repeat the refrain on, say “Hey” or “The Story,” it was mesmerizing, making you want to dance or make romance.
Think Sade squared, fronting Soul II Soul. Or maybe Janet Jackson cooing, with some Earth, Wind & Fire harmonies, Stevie Wonder electric piano, some Princely ballads. Except King sounded timeless and current.
Paris, who did much of the talking between songs, laid down the rhythms and melodies on a keyboard, laptop and sampler.
The material was drawn from “We Are King” and a 2011 EP. Highlights included the trippy romantic “Red Eye” and the hypnotic “Love Song” with its cascading vocal intricacies.
King explained that “The Greatest,” another highlight, was about Muhammad Ali, which seemed like an unusual throwback topic for 20-somethings.
Of course, no one questions that Ali is the greatest in boxing, and, after Friday’s performance, it would be easy to argue that King is a major contender in the music world in 2016.