Gig review: KING KING – Islington Academy, London, 11 November 2015

KING KING - Islington Academy, London, 11 November 2015

It takes time to be an overnight sensation but King King, and singer guitarist Alan Nimmo in particular, have enjoyed a spectacular rise to fame recently.  Having paid his dues for a long time with the Nimmo Brothers and now King King, the latter suddenly seem to have risen to prominence with their third album ‘Reaching For The Light’. All year they have been playing bigger venues and my curiosity got the better of me as they headlined the Islington Academy which was fairly full, interestingly for a ‘new’ band with a rather seasoned crowd.

Ben Poole - Islington Academy, London, 11 November 2015

Another rising star of the blues scene Ben Poole opened. I was struck on the opening couple of numbers how some brilliant blues guitar playing was subjugated to a modern pop rock approach to songwriting, with at various stages comparisons drawn to Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas and even Bryan Adams in his husky vocal delivery on songs like ‘Love Nobody No More’.  His rhythm section take a minimalist approach to allow his songs scope to breathe.

Ben Poole - Islington Academy, London, 11 November 2015

However a song dedicated to Gary Moore, ‘Time Might Never Come’ was a long slow burner culminating in an extended bluesy solo sand must have tipped the stopwatch at around 15 minutes to delight the blues purists. A taut, funky ‘Starting All Over’ concluded an impressive 40 minute set.

Making no concessions to flamboyance other than Alan’s trademark kilt and his band looking very dapper in waistcoats and jackets, King King’s music was allowed to speak for itself. While they came to prominence through the blues scene the breadth of their influences mean that a break into the rock mainstream is long overdue.

KING KING - Islington Academy, London, 11 November 2015

This variety was seen in the opening three numbers with blues rock swagger of ‘Lose Control’ with rolling piano like a modern day version of the original (and best) Whitesnake but ‘Wait On Time’ a faithful Fabulous Thunderbirds cover and ‘Waking Up’ with Alan’s voice and the Hammond organ of Dutch keyboardist Bob Fridzema – sporting the fashion du jour of a ‘man bun’ – reminding me of the blue eyed soul of a Paul Carrack or even Steve Winwood.

Throughout it was easy to warm to Alan with his quick wit and very obvious appreciation for the increased following the band has built, even though that wit was needed to tackle some over persistent hecklers.

KING KING - Islington Academy, London, 11 November 2015

While not breaking new ground, it was a delight to hear music rooted in the best classic traditions so well played and sounding fresh. On the likes of ‘Rolling On’ and ‘You Stopped The Rain’ Alan took off on some lengthy but highly fluent and melodic solos.  In contrast  ‘Hurricane’ and current single ‘Crazy’ were of the more straight ahead bluesy rock that will have Thunder fans doing a double take when King King join their tour next year.

A cover of fellow Glaswegian Frankie Miller’s ‘Jealousy’ was quite superb while ‘All Your Life’ had a looser groove and the set closed with ‘StrangerTo Love’ which had an epic feel particularly in Alan’s lengthy solo which – with a spectacular display of dynamics – he slowed to virtual silence before picking up the pace again. However it was the combination of guitar and Hammond that really made the music stand out from the norm with added depth.

KING KING - Islington Academy, London, 11 November 2015

A solitary encore of ‘Let Love In’ showed the more soulful side of their repertoire, indeed even with a gospel feel, reminding me of the Allmans or Royal Southern Brotherhood. The catchy chorus even resulted in a singlaong which a number of people were prolonging even as they left the venue. After an impressively thorough hour and 40 minute set, I left thinking the buzz that has come to surround them was fully justified and I had a new favourite band to acclaim.

Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Darran Scott

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