Sunday, February 13, 2022

King King - O2 Academy, Glasgow, 12 February 2022

“It’s been a long time coming,” sang Sam Cooke, “but I know there’s a change gonna come.”  Okay, so Sam had some weightier matters on his mind, like civil rights.  But still, it’s an apt sentiment as music fans emerge blinking from the depths of our long Covid winter to enjoy the thrills of live music again.  Hell, it’s been so long since I last had an overnight trip for a gig that I forgot my toothbrush.
What’s more, this is the first time I’ve seen King King since the arrival of Zander Greenshields
Have you got something in your eye Alan, or are you just pleased to see us?
and Andrew Scott on bass and drums, and of Alan Nimmo’s big bro Stevie on guitar and vocals – and also since the release of their latest album Maverick.  So all things considered, it’s a pleasure to report that this was a great show from King King – and also one that held out the promise of more to come.
They open up in bright fashion with ‘(She Don’t) Give Me No Lovin’’, and boy do they make a big, fat sound nowadays – and that’s not just about the extra guitar, it’s about the vocals too.  It was inevitable that Stevie Nimmo’s voice would make a difference, as he adds power but also top-notch high harmonies.  But now there are four of ‘em pitching in vocally, with both Greenshields and Jonny Dyke also making solid contributions on the harmony front.
The following ‘Fire In My Soul’ and ‘One World’ signal a welcome shake-up in their set since our last encounter - the latter notably solo-free, but standing out for the vocal arrangement, with voices not just backing Alan Nimmo, but bouncing off and around him in bravura fashion.
There are some tweaks to the arrangement of long-time standard ‘Waking Up’, particularly in Stevie Nimmo’s wah-wah rhythm playing, and it’s a good thing he picks up the lead guitar reins on ‘Rush Hour’ too, as brother Alan’s amp chooses this moment to go snap, lots of crackle, and phut for the first time, he suggests, in 5 years.  No matter, the malfunction doesn’t affect the return of the King King Choir for the traditional 'Rush Hour' audience singalong.
Pleasingly, they reach back to the Standing In The Shadows album for the warm and soulful deep cut ‘Coming Home (Rest Your Eyes)’, with flourishes and waves of Hammond organ from Jonny Dyke, which in turn lines up the highlight of ‘Long History Of Love’.  Alan Nimmo’s voice is in such fine fettle here that it’s easy to forget the vocal problems he had a few years ago – and let’s hope they’re banished for good.  But it’s a classic track for more than just that, as Dyke weighs in with an impressive organ solo, only to be outdone by Nimmo on guitar, aided and
Stevie Nimmo whistles a happy tune to brother Alan
abetted by drummer Andrew Scott giving his kit a fearful pounding that’s so good Stevie Nimmo turns and gives him a fingertip-kissing salute at its conclusion.  Then ‘You’ll Stop The Rain’ maintains the intensity, gradually rising from its singalong’n’clapalong intro to the peak of Alan Nimmo’s searing second solo.
After that, it’s perhaps inevitable that ‘Everything Will Be Alright’ feels like a bit of a come down, but to my mind they have stronger songs at their disposal, both old and new.  No matter, they jack things up again with the excellent ‘Whatever It Takes To Survive’, which is full of dynamic twists and turns, and features the Nimmo boys facing off to deliver its harmonised guitar segment – though I’m thinking, “Come on guys, don’t be shy.  Get yourselves side by side stage front, and take this to the limit!”  This moment, in fact, points the way to future possibilities in the combination of the brothers’ guitars.  Sure, this is Alan Nimmo’s band, not the Nimmo Brothers, but the dynamic between them carries huge potential.
They close with ‘I Will Not Fall’, a slab of defiant funk that ends up rocking out big time, with a blazing Stevie Nimmo solo and some more on point drum thrashing from Andrew Scott.  And there’s still time for a triple encore, kicking off with the spellbinding piano and voice emotional pull of ‘When My Winter Comes’, on which the crowd, blissfully, keeps schtum.  Then they get big and gutsy with ‘Stranger To Love’, featuring Alan Nimmo’s sotto voce guitar solo passage, now no longer going down to near-silence but varied with some big, ripped out chords to go with Scott’s walloping accompaniment.
They knock out the breezy fun of ‘Let Love In’, and they’re done.  It’s a set that’s fresh, powerful,
and well balanced.  Most importantly though, it lives up to the moment by delivering that sense of communion and release that we’ve all missed through much of the last couple of years.  As my better half put it, it was joyous.
Support band The Damn Truth hail from Canada, which is a hell of a long way to come to pitch
up in Glasgow on a dismally rain-sodden evening, then get yourselves onstage to face a still relatively thin audience who aren't yet properly in the mood.  Fair play to ‘em though, they set about the task with a will, right from the drum-pummelling intro to ‘This Is Who We Are Now’.
Lee-la Baum of The Damn Truth gives it big licks
First impressions are positive, even if the headbanging, stage-crossing, shape-throwing antics of guitarist Tom Shemer and bassist PY Letellier can seem a bit Spinal Tap at times.  There are two reasons for this.  First up, they have some not bad material.  Secondly, lead singer Lee-la Baum has one helluva set of pipes – think Elles Bailey on steroids, maybe.  Her power and clarity are such that she scarcely needs the lashings of reverb occasionally draped around her voice, albeit sometimes for dramatic effect.  Also, the woman has bags of personality.
They’re a tight combo, impressive on ‘Lonely’, with its hummed, work-song bluesy passages and stop-time riff.  And from that point on, I gotta say, they’re on a roll.  They manage to both hit heavy and swing on ‘Only Love’, a jangle-riffed power pop affair that has hit written all over it – and I don’t say that lightly.  Then they provide both light and shade on the sorta power ballad ‘Look Innocent’, on which Shemer delivers his best solo of the night, before his byzantine intro heralds the closing ‘Tomorrow’, complete with another powerful hook.
The Damn Truth certainly did enough to win me over, and I wasn’t alone.  I was even moved to hit the merch desk and buy their new album Now Or Nowhere.  Hell, they’ve come all the way from Canada – they might need a few extra shekels to get home.

King King and The Damn Truth are on tour till 24 February, details available here.  And The Damn Truth have some additional headline shows, details available here.

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