It must be hard being a support band at times. When I arrived at Fibbers Hobo Joe and the Dead Cats had already started their set and were playing I Shot The Sheriff to a more or less empty room. Not that there was nobody there, but most of the attendees were standing between the sound desk and the bar and there was nobody in the front of stage area. The set was mostly comprised of Blues covers – Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride And Joy and a lovely swampy-sounding version of Red House from Hendrix were two that I recognised – but finished with a rendition of The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Frontman Richard Tull would be recognisable by any fans of Hazzard County as “Rocking Richard” (or is that just a nickname that we used?) and, if anything, he produced even more rocking stances and little touches than during the few times I remember seeing him play with the Hazzards. Paul Winn shares vocals duties with Tull and also blows a mean harmonica or, more accurately, a number of harmonicas as he dipped into his little case for different ones between and during songs. The rhythm section of, I think, Ben Darwin and Tony Bachelor provided a solid backing, even though Bachelor at one point managed to accidentally fling one of his sticks away, narrowly missing Winn with it. A short set, certainly shorter than they like playing, but an entertaining one and one that the crowd seemed to warm to, even if nobody moved any further forward. Fans of Blues could do worse than check this band out – they will be supporting Dr Feelgood at Fibbers in October, but play full sets at other venues around York.
King King, fronted by Glaswegian Alan Nimmo – a man who looks as though he could play prop-forward for his national team but who has one of the deftest and gentlest touches on a guitar that I have ever come across – play incredible Blues.
That could be the most accurate, and shortest, review I have ever written. But, of course, I’m not going to leave it at that…
When such a large Scotsman asks, “what are you all doing back there?” you don’t answer (even if he is wearing a kilt, especially if he’s wearing boots big enough to make it look impossible for him to hit the right effects pedals on his rig…), you just move forward, closer to the stage, and pay attention. Unusually, for Blues bands that I have seen (admittedly not that many) King King are a foursome, led by Nimmo on guitar and vocals but with keyboards from Bennett Holland weaving in and out of the guitar lines and, occasionally, soaring with their unique Blues sound during solo spots. You get an indication that you are in for something special when you think that the second song of the set could easily have been a finale for the majority of other bands, with stunning guitar-playing that started out just above minimal and built to a crescendo. Little did I know there was better to come. The band are about to release their second album, Standing In The Shadows, and tonight’s audience were treated to a number of tracks from it, starting with the lovely, slower, almost mainstream, A Long History Of Love which included a keys-led section and a mesmerising extended guitar section that you could lose yourself in and that you could have heard a pin drop during. And that doesn’t happen often at Fibbers. Nimmo’s vocals were incredibly clear, even when he was standing quite a way behind the microphone. One More Time Around ramped up the tempo with its harder, rockier, noisier sound while Jealousy, originally written and performed by Nimmo’s childhood hero Frankie Miller (prompting Nimmo to wonder, “what the f*** am I doing?” when he first decided to cover it) was darker, with a great drum line from Wayne Proctor and very powerful vocals. One song with what I would describe as a more traditional Blues-rock sound featured a segue, into a much harder sounding one, which jarred slightly but somehow still worked. By now the crowd was well and truly warmed up and one group, dancing off to one side, were invited to move more front and centre but they declined. Continuing with the mix of styles the final song of the set, dedicated to Nimmo’s older brother Stevie, started out with a sound reminiscent of Eric Clapton before unfolding into some quite exquisite and sublime guitar work which, at one point, was beautifully quiet. Heart-wrenching, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I had never heard anything like it before and yet, just when you thought that the sound couldn’t get any quieter and gentler, it did. Nimmo’s plectrum must have been barely brushing the strings. This was quite possibly the most spellbinding piece of music I have had the pleasure to see performed live and, while you knew it was eventually going to build, it seemed that the audience were collectively holding there breath until it did. A ten-song set doesn’t sound like very many, but most of the tracks included stunning extended instrumental sections, meaning that those ten songs came in at over an hour and a half of music. The inevitable encore followed, but Mr Highway Man, as good as it was, couldn’t put a dent in the memory of that last piece of music.