Glasgow based King King released their third album Reaching For The Light on 4th May. If a bulging trophy cabinet were their only measure of success, you’d be forgiven for wondering why they bothered. With best band, best album (for 2013’s Standing In The Shadows), best drummer, best bass player and best male vocalist snapped up in the 2014 British Blues Awards, they’re a collective with little to prove – but King King aren’t famed for resting on their laurels and the new record is already their most critically well received to date.
The band recently played London’s Borderline, a gig that sold out in short order. In recognition of this, and to promote the launch of Reaching For The Light, they return to the capital tonight – this time at Camden’s premiere landing spot for quality jazz and blues, The Jazz Cafe.
It’s already a bit of a squeeze when support, Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson serve up a slice of their infusion of Celtic folk and blues. He is a bushy Australian who plays mean slide guitar. She is Northern Irish and plays just about everything else (drums, percussion, washboard, tin whistle). She also possesses a remarkable pair of lungs. They do make a slightly odd pair. In his outback bush hat (minus the corks) and her vintage dress, it looks like he’s about to slay a crocodile whilst she serves afternoon tea and scones. They are excellent however and a great warm up for an expectant audience.
King King are fronted by the abundantly talented and wildly charismatic Alan Nimmo. Nimmo, a proud Glaswegian, is well known for his predilection for performance in tartan and tonight we’re once again treated to an occasional glimpse of kneecap. Alan is a wonderful guitarist. His playing is as precise as it is expressive as it is full of emotional tension. There are plenty of opportunities for him to shine tonight, but none more so than during the extended solo to Clapton’s Old Love, a cut from Take My Hand. Nimmo skillfully takes the guitar down and down until the Jazz Cafe crowd hears nothing but the sound of six unamplified strings in his hands. It’s a mesmerising trick that commands and thankfully (after a couple of false dawns from the bar), finally receives total quiet from his audience. As the King King star rises and venues expand I’m thinking this near silent party piece might sadly have a limited life expectancy. Of course, from such a peaceful interlude there’s only one direction to go. We all expect a searing climax to the song and Nimmo delivers it in spades. The other thing he delivers is the creamy, soulful vocal that netted his Blues Awards Gong. Comparisons have been made to Paul Rodgers and the influence of Free/Bad Company on the music is palpable at times.
But this band is certainly not all about one person. From behind the keys sits Dutch born Bob Fridzema, who plays a critical role in the King King sonic landscape. His burbling Hammond organ complements the rhythm and offers a reassuring presence – the musical equivalent of heavy breathing on the baby alarm. And when the baby awakes, as it does in the beautiful ballad A Long History Of Love, Fridzema lets rip with some lovely lead keyboard work.
This being the launch party for Reaching For The Light, it’s no surprise that the set list contains a healthy contingent from the new record. Fast rocker and first single from the album, Hurricane is delivered with gusto, as is the wantonly catchy You Stopped The Rain. You’ll find King King occupying the Blues-Rock section of your favourite online record store. The 2011 debut album Take My Hand certainly fulfilled this brief although 2013’s Standing In The Shadows and this latest recording indicate a more rock infused trajectory. Whilst they might be leaning more towards the latter half of the blues-rock equation, there is still a place in their set for some soul/funk and jazz orientated tunes too. All Your Life and the encore Let Love In both deliver a hypnotic groove and it’s in these songs where the tight-knit rhythm locked down by Nimmo’s long-term collaborators Lindsay Coulson on bass and Wayne Proctor behind the kit really drive the band along.
This really was a night of first-rate playing and quality music enjoyed by a capacity Jazz Cafe crowd. King King delivered a wonderfully intimate performance that was perfectly suited to this cozy venue. But with Reaching For The Light primed to be their greatest commercial success to date, I urge you to catch them as soon as you can. Snug performance spaces such as this might well become a thing of the past.
Photography & Review by Simon Reed. King King – The Jazz Cafe on 06/05/15.
Simon has his own great site here: www.musicalpictures.co.uk
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The full set here: http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/King-King/G0000p0KunTYjuCI