Things that seem too good to be true usually are. S0 when one of Britain’s top rated Blues Bands came to town to play in a local school hall it seemed like I should heed those words of wisdom. In last years British Blues Awards King King and their enigmatic founder Scotsman Alan Nimmo, were voted Best Band, and their album ‘Take My Hand’ best disc. How then did they come to be playing in a hall filled with wooden tables up the corridor from classrooms? I headed back to school just the same, and was very glad I did.
When I arrived at the RealSchule in Troisdorf at around 7pm things were just as I’d expected them to remain for the evening. Leader (King?) of King King Alan Nimmo’s imposing Scottish presence was just vacating the stage, and I collared drummer Wayne Proctor for a promised interview before he disappeared off for his evening meal. There were just a few people milling about as I followed him to the only unlocked and available space for the said interview – a medium sized, windowless store room, whose only luxury was a choice of some 100 wooden chairs stacked in high rows. We each grabbed a chair and you can read the resulting chat HERE.
When we emerged back into daylight though the world outside had changed radically. I could barely squeeze into the Hall to see‘ BB’s Bluesmile’, Houseband for the Troisdorfer Bluesclub, onstage. Either King King’s name is already on the rise here in Germany, or there was a parents meeting that caught the organizers unawares. Judging by the smiling faces, it was the former.
I had never seen or heard BB and his band before, but I have to say I came away impressed by their repertoire. Whereas I might have expected an hour of Clapton and Muddy Waters classics what we were served were nicely chosen modern numbers, including Henrik Freischladers ‘I’ and Ian Parker’s ‘Funny How’ (Did they know that the guy who drummed for Parker was squeezed in at the back listening and watching?) Also a welcome surprise were two numbers by the late Sean Costello. Even a reworked ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ came across smoothly. I have to say “Hut ab’ gentlemen. Excellent show and excellent taste in song selection.
When King King took the stage Alan Nimmos smile almost doubled the wattage of the lighting above him. Clearly he was pleased to be here, and also pleased that so many people had also chosen to be here too. This was only the third night of the tour – and indeed only the third time that the band had played the new numbers off of the not yet released CD ‘Standing in the Shadows’ – but you would never have known it. From the steady rocking start of ‘More than I can Take’ it was Nimmo’s aim to get everyone standing and dancing. Not a simple task when everyone was settled behind longwooden tables more used to writing notes than holding beer glasses whilst people heard notes from them. It’s a track that screams the influence of Bad Company with Paul Rogers, and a good indicator of the musical roots of this band.
Throughout the evening there’s a feel that we’re hearing the best of 70’s Bluesrock and despite the flat Schoolhall lighting King King manage to create an atmosphere that does have an awful lot of people up and dancing in spite of the furniture. Bassman Lindsay Coulson, despite being English, is also clad in the traditional attire of a King King gig – his green kilt though not upstaging the bright red tartan of Nimmo. The rest of the band manage to make their presences felt despite the setback of being merely trousered: Hammond man Daniel Bingham made the perfect foil for interplay with Nimmo’s solos and Wayne Proctor passed the test of changing volume to match that of Nimmo with flying colours – a significant feat considering Nimmo’s enjoyment of going right down to 1 on his Fenders volume dial.
“When I was small…and I was small once – maybe for about two minutes!” smiled the rather larger than life Nimmo, “I used to listen to music with my brother. This one’s for him!” Nimmo’s version of the Clapton classic ‘Old Love’ was worth the trip to Troisdorf alone. Would have been worth it if I’d had to walk there from Cologne even. It’s a number that has disappeared from their set in the UK now, but as Wayne Proctor told me later, as the audience is unfamiliar with the band’s own material, they put ‘Old Love’ back in. A big Thank You! gentlemen. The proverbial goosebumps ran down the equally proverbial spine to that one. There are moments, rare as they are, when you know you’re hearing something that adds up to more than mere notes, chords and amplified electricity. King King and ‘Old Love’ was one of them. The rest of the set couldn’t hope to hit the same heady heights, but oldies like the R&R fired ‘Six in the Morning’ from the band’s first EP and the boogie beat of ‘Gravy Train‘ were not far off. A final encore of ‘Mr Highway Man’ with it’s strident honky-tonk riff ensured that no one was left sitting or with hands in pockets. It was a hammer of a performance the likes of which I doubt the Realschule has ever seen before or possibly will again.
Back at the souvenir stand there is almost an atmosphere of shock on the faces of people who normally just have unpaid beer tabs to settle. King King CD’s are selling as fast as the cartons can be put on the table. It’s been a record attendance at the Troisdorf Bluesclub, estimates run from 250 to 350 people. Stunning for a band for whom my remarks about the coming show to people at the Blues Caravan a couple of weeks before were ones of ‘King who?’ If you can’t get to a gig do yourselves a favor and grab a copy of ‘Take My Hand’ or check them out on YouTube. If everyone who loves Bluesrock in Bonn does so then I really can’t believe this band won’t be playing to a full house at the Harmonie next year.
And finally some ‘moving pictures’ to show what you missed if you weren’t there…