What is it about Alan Nimmo? Bit by bit, as King King have inched towards full-blooming success over 10 years, the man has forged an incredible rapport with their growing audience. Tonight in Newcastle, before they’ve even played a note, he straps on his guitar to the strains of ‘Highway To Hell’, then cups his hand to his ear as the chorus arrives, and grins as the crowd roars out the words.
This is just the beginning, of course. More and more, as the years have gone by, King King gigs have generated a sense of communion. It’s de rigeur for rock bands to incorporate a bit of a singalong with the crowd in their show of course, typically a bit of call and response
in a song towards the end of the set - job done. But with King King, as with Springsteen, over time things have taken on a life of their own.
|Alan Nimmo in the pink|
So on ‘Rush Hour’, just a few songs in, there’s no waiting till the end for the audience to get stuck in. Jonny Dyke trills out a keyboard intro, Alan Nimmo offers a vague invitation, and the Boiler Shop Choir are off and running. They still do the usual bit at the end, but evidently the crowd aren’t satisfied, because after the last note has died away they have another go at it, a capella. Much the same happens towards the end of the set, on ‘You’ll Stop The Rain’, where Nimmo has the crowd singing the guitar refrain, and they like it so much they do it again off their own bat when the song is over. “Splendid,” says Nimmo with a chuckle.
Nimmo can even elicit a roar of approval with just his trademark clenched fist salute at the end of a song, like a goalscorer celebrating a goal. But if this is all starting to sound like the football terraces set to music, then let’s be clear that there’s a whole lot more to a King King show than that.
They’ve shaken up the set for this tenth anniversary tour, and there are now three servings of tough, dystopian funk early on, in the form of ‘Broken’, ‘Lose Control’ and ‘Heed The Warning’. Jonny Dyke’s swelling keys bring an epic feel to ‘Broken’, while they simply kick ass on ‘Lose Control’, with those immense drum rolls from Wayne Proctor and a stonking little solo from Nimmo. The meaty ‘Heed The Warning’, meanwhile, features jittery clavinet from Dyke, who seems increasingly at home in the KK brotherhood these days, and contributes some dreamy organ to the soulful ‘Coming Home’ – the inclusion of which underlines that they have plenty of untapped shots in their locker when it comes to material.
|Lindsay Coulson and Alan Nimmo reach for the light|
And let’s not ignore just how good a guitarist Alan Nimmo is. He and his gang conjure up excellent dynamics on ‘Stranger To Love’, as a basis for a masterly solo that brings grunts of “Go on Alan” from a couple of punters, and huge cheers when the last note expires. In a different vein ‘You’ll Stop The Rain’ achieves escape velocity, as always, with his stunning second solo.
Their range is also apparent in the switch from the perfect, frivolous rock froth of ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’’ to the dramatic ‘Take A Look’. The latter has had few previous live outings, but if they’re of a mind to include an AOR power ballad then it strikes me as a stronger candidate than ‘Find Your Way Home’, which closes the set proper. I’m all for the dads-and-daughters sentiments of ‘FYWH’, which show off another side of Nimmo’s readiness to explore real-life emotions, but for me the melody lacks a mysterious something.
Speaking of emotions, tonight is bassist Lindsay Coulson’s penultimate gig with the band. So it seems appropriate that the encores go back to debut album Take My Hand, with the title track serving up some party funk before ‘Old Love’ sets a seal on the night. Nimmo eschews the ‘silent running’ segment that’s traditionally decorated the Clapton/Cray cover (or alternatively ‘Stranger To Love’), but there’s still delicacy and feeling galore in his solo.
King King may not yet have absolutely hit the big time, but they have come a long, long way
over the last ten years. The line-up may change, but the spirit abides, and continues to win hearts and minds. Let’s see if a new album this year can bump them up another level.
|Sari Schorr - vocal force of nature|
It says something about King King that they can outshine opener Sari Schorr as easily as they do, because she and her band are far from being support act cannon fodder – very far indeed. They deliver their set in brisk fashion, knocking out a strong and well chosen batch of songs that show off Schorr’s towering vocals to good effect, as well as the guitar work of Ash Wilson. They make a good pairing, with Schorr getting down in old-fashioned rock chick fashion while Wilson does his stuff.
‘Damn The Reason’ is the only offering from first album A Force Of Nature, and shows off Schorr’s ability to bring dramatic intent to a song, while their cover of Bad Company’s ‘Ready For Love’ hits the nail on the head.
‘King Of Rock’n’Roll’ neatly counterpoints tinkling piano ripples from Stevie Watts with rumbling guitar chords from Wilson, who whips out an array of impressive solos across the set on a variety of guitars, including startling, piercing tones on ‘Never Say Never’, the title track of Schorr's second album.
‘Maybe I’m Fooling’ cranks up the momentum, with gut-thumping drums from Roy Martin, before they rock out big time with the obvious set closer ‘Valentina’, with its infernally catchy hook.
She gigs a lot, does Sari Schorr. Sometime soon she and her gang are bound to be playing near you. Go see ‘em, and cop an earful of her vocal firepower.