A brief snatch of ‘Alright Now’ blasts from the PA as King King arrive onstage. They probably intended it as a nod to the influence of Free, but ask any of the punters leaving this gig if they thought ‘Alright Now’ was a reasonable summary of the night and they’d think you were insane. King King blew the bloody roof off.
As standard bearers for the modern British blues scene in recent years, you expect them to be good. But this was a jaw dropping performance. From the first song, a rocking rendition of ‘Lose Control’, they were at the very top of their game.
|Alan Nimmo has a quiet night in|
Understandably, Alan Nimmo is often the focus of attention in King King, the figurehead. But tonight the energy, the synergy, flowing between the four of them is astonishing, oozing confidence and growth. A couple of tunes in they cool things off a notch with ‘Waking Up’, and it’s noticeable how Wayne Proctor on drums and Lyndsay Coulson on bass execute subtle shifts in the rhythm as they propel the song forward. Meanwhile ‘Rush Hour’ demonstrates that Nimmo and Bob Fridzema dovetail their rhythm guitar and organ sound to form a mighty combo. By the time Nimmo urges the crowd to join in on a towering “Whoa-oh-ho” singalong the mood is so good that he’s got a Cheshire Cat grin all over his mug – or in the local lingo, he’s like a dug wi’ two tails.
And no wonder. It’s still early days when Fridzema unleashes a blinding organ solo on ‘Long History Of Love’ – did my ears deceive me or did he weave in the melody from Deacon Blue’s ‘When Will You Make My Phone Ring’? – before a vertiginous guitar solo from Nimmo erupts out of the song.
Sure, they get funky and have a good time, but there’s an underlying reality and feeling there too, evidenced by ‘You Stopped The Rain’. Alan Nimmo explains that the song was inspired by watching his brother Stevie go through the uncertainty of cancer with a strength he wasn’t sure he could muster himself, and that humanity is right there in the words. Meanwhile he builds up a storm of tension with a repeated guitar lick, increased further as Proctor ups the tempo on drums, before it resolves neatly into the main riff.
|King King in the House Of Blue Light|
The melding of rock, funk and blues is well nigh perfect though. On ‘Crazy’, with Proctor’s drums booming and Fridzema switching from Jon Lord-like organ to Stevie Wonder-style clavinet, the spirit of Whitesnake’s best, earthiest days is revived. Meanwhile ‘All Your Life’ is transformed into a funk rock wig-out of such proportions compared to the album version that even Coulson, normally reserved, is moved by his monster bass groove to flit across the stage and get on down in front of Fridzema’s keyboards.
The set closer ‘Stranger To Love’ demonstrates how turn-on-a-dime tight they are, first pulsing, then roaring, then dropping completely for Nimmo’s party piece near-silent guitar solo, in contrast to the Layla-esque tones surfacing elsewhere on the song. Faced with a curfew, the sole encore of ‘Let Love In’ has the crowd dancing, but leaves them wanting more.
Glasgow may always be a special gig for King King, but on this showing they are a band that have moved to another level – and have done so with their humility and good humour intact.
As Sir Alex Ferguson might have put it, “King King eh? Bloody hell!”
|Dan Patlansky - no mere mortal on guitar|
It’s a sign of King King’s mettle that they allow someone as talented as Dan Patlansky to open for them. As I arrive, a tad late (sorry Dan, nobody’s fault but mine, as the song says), he’s in the middle of the anthemic, dynamic ‘Loosen Up The Grip’, and it feels like the audience are still weighing him up.
The O2 ABC can be a bit of an unforgiving barn for a support band, but as he and his band work their way through the chunky ‘Fetch Your Spade’ and the slow blues of ‘Still Wanna Be Your Man’, with its subdued hurdy gurdy keys from Dean Barrow, he does a good job of selling his wares. The following ‘Backbite’ is a stone cold classic of diamond-hard funked up rock, which turns into a showcase for his guitar mastery, as he solos without picking, conjures up squelchy effects, tricks tuneful feedback out of his Strat while apparently doing nowt, and generally performs sorcery of a Prince/Hendrix magnitude. Catch him if you can.