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Music Review

King gets a royal reception at Great Scott

Anita Bias (left), of the “electro-soul” trio King, performs at Great Scott on Monday night.

Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe

Anita Bias (left), of the “electro-soul” trio King, performs at Great Scott on Monday night.

A few years back, Berklee alums Paris Nicole Strother and Anita Bias teamed up with Paris’s twin sister, Amber, to form King, a trio that lays down what it calls “electro-soul,” powered by Paris’s lush, smooth beats and her bandmates’ vocal interplay. So far, the group has released an EP (2011’s “The Story”) and a handful of singles, but those glimpses of its collective talent have been enough to garner attention from soul’s biggest names, including Prince; over the weekend King opened for the R&B titan Babyface in Washington, D.C.

Monday night’s set at Great Scott made the reasons for the buzz plain, particularly on tracks like the stretched-out “Supernatural,” here extended with a handclap-heavy breakdown, and the grooving “Mister Chameleon.” The rich instrumentals laid down by Paris slightly update the silky R&B that dominated radio during the ’80s, never sacrificing atmosphere for forward movement or vice versa. Bias and Amber Strother’s vocals slip over each other gently, switching off on lead duties at precisely calibrated moments before uniting in harmonies that explode the tracks to double their size.

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King borrows elements like plush keyboard lines and drum-machine beats from the past, enveloping them into a sophisticated yet not blindingly glossy vision of what pop’s next chapter should look like. Near the end of the set, the group covered Zapp & Roger’s 1985 ode to modem-based romance, “Computer Love”; King’s sly version crackled and hummed, with only the archaic lyrics (a 2014 reboot would probably shout out a smartphone’s display, not a “computer screen”) tipping off the audience to the song’s old-school origins.

Monday’s set also featured a few cuts from King’s forthcoming album, which the trio has been honing for the past three years; long-limbed jams like the harmony-rich “Native Land” and the sultry “The Right One” got the crowd moving and clapping along, united in pursuit of a groove. King’s return to Boston doubled as a neon-bright sign that they’ll be playing bigger rooms next time they come through, and the way the performers graciously soaked in the audience’s attention on Monday — beaming at the crowd, interspersing copious “thank you”s between songs — made that future seem like an absolutely correct outcome.

Maura Johnston can be reached at maura.johnston@gmail.com.
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