Monday, November 20, 2023

King King - Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh, 19 November 2023

Maybe it’s the compact venue.  Maybe it’s the clear but beefy sound.  Maybe it’s something indefinable.  But whatever it is, King King’s mojo is well and truly working right from the git-go.  On record the opening ‘Dance Together’ is a pleasing chunk of funky fun, but not tonight.  Tonight it’s a big fat statement of intent, the two Les Pauls of Alan and Stevie Nimmo harmonising on the intro, before Jonny Dyke’s organ rips in to whip things up.  And when he gets round to it, Alan Nimmo’s solo squeals like a thing possessed.  Welcome back, my friends.
Alan Nimmo senses the traditional bagginess of the kilt
‘Long Time Running’ is a blues-rocking blast, with those two Les Pauls packing a serious rhythm guitar wallop, and on a crunching rendition of ‘Heed The Warning’ they’re tight-tight-tight all the way to the guitar harmony ending.  Then they show their sensitive side on ‘By Your Side’, with bluesy guitar over delicate piano on the intro, and poignant harmonies that exhibit just one of the benefits of bringing Stevie Nimmo into the fold.  And then the song metamorphoses into a power ballad with the emphasis on power, capped by a howling Alan Nimmo solo.
Emotional epics are of course a King King trademark.  Not widescreen, cinematic tales, but songs that give expression to life’s challenges.  ‘Long History Of Love’ is one of the best songs in this vein you’ll find anywhere - the first King King song I ever heard, still my favourite in their repertoire, and tonight given a terrific reading - with Alan Nimmo on excellent vocal form despite evidently being irritated by a slight cough.  ‘Whatever It Takes To Survive’ is another, more defiant example from their latest album Maverick, tonight dedicated to still-recovering Thunder singer Danny Bowes. Easing in with downbeat images of isolation and despair, it then surges into a promise of hope with what is, tonight, a chorus that sounds well and truly massive.  And that chorus gets reworked into an all too brief zinger of a twin guitar attack from the Nimmo brothers.  More of this kind of thing please, fellas!   Meanwhile, ‘Rush Hour’ may have become one of the traditional moments for the King King choir to exercise their lungs, but it begins with contemplation of everyday pressures before swelling into its gutsy “You believe in me” exclamation.
There are singalong moments on ‘You’ll Stop The Rain’ too, which nowadays comes with a huge a cappella intro.  It doesn’t go in for light-and-shade dynamics like the songs mentioned above, but as an impassioned expression of sympathy to an ailing loved one, it simply takes off into
Brothers in arms
another dimension through Alan Nimmo’s solo, while drummer Andrew Scott gives his kit a fearful hammering for thunderous emphasis.
But amid all the emotional heave-ho there’s also the togetherness and fun that Alan Nimmo has always brought to the table, the sense of being reunited with long-standing pals, having a laugh.  Responding to a malfunction with Jonny Dyke’s keyboard set-up that necessitates a technical pause, he observes that “Our tech guy’s away working with Michael Schenker – fucking traitor!”   Welcoming “newbies” among the audience he laments that they’ve taken so long to come on board: “I was young and good-looking when we started this!”  And as he’s introducing ‘You’ll Stop The Rain’ he casually mentions that it’s actually brother Stevie’s birthday, resulting in a spontaneous chorus of ‘Happy Birthday To You’.
And speaking of Stevie, he delivers a wowser of a guitar showcase on the funk-inflected set closer ‘I Will Not Fall’, as a precursor to an electrifying tandem guitar break.  More of this kind of thing, please!  (Did I say that already?)
They come back for just the one encore, with another matters-of-the-heart epic in ‘Stranger To Love’, replete with Alan’s patented sotto voce guitar picking spot, and peaking with he and drummer Andrew Scott going at it hammer and tongs as it reaches its climax.
I wasn’t there when Alan Nimmo set out on his King King journey back in 2008, but I’ve seen them live plenty of times over the last 8 years, and this was the performance of theirs I’ve enjoyed most for a while.  Sure, I might have liked a sneak preview of a new song or two, but all in good time.  For now I sense this line-up have discovered some deeper gears, and fresh possibilities, that hold out the promise of even better things to come.  Bring on the new album, guys!

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