Rockpalast Crossroads Festival Day 4 and time for a Royal visit from Britain’s most popular Bluesband the Mighty King King, and as a sweetener (pun intended) top Canadian Root- Rock-Reggae Band Big Sugar.
Big Sugar have been around awhile now and in that time have inspired the likes of Black Crowes and Gov’t Mule. It’s not hard to see why either, Guitarist and vocalist Gordie Johnson has something of the Woodstock era about him as he keeps the Rock touch to a band that otherwise would lean even more heavily into Reggae waters than they already do. In truth though there’s a bit of everything in their live act: Blues Harp, saxophone , and Melodica from Kelly ‘Mr Chill’ Hoppe, with a gentlemen known on the fansite only as ‘Friendlyness’ providing the Rap and sharing the keyboards. Add Garry Lowe on bass who looks very much like he just shared a smoke with Bob Marley and you get the picture. Fun for All and All for Fun so to speak.
They started off with the aptly titled ‘Brothers & Sisters are you Ready?’ and made sure we all were – to dance that is. I especially liked the rockier moments such as the gloriously threatening ‘Eliminate Ya!’ and if the final number ‘Ride Like Hell’ sounded more than a little like something from Jimi Hendrix maybe it was that Woodstock vibe that emanated from the man spilling the guitar riffs. I’d never heard of the Band before yesterday, but Big Sugar are a fun live band to go-see and on many a day would have made the perfect closing act of a Festival evening.
Only there was a more perfect closing act for THIS Festival. When King King played a couple of shows in this area last year they were a secret tip for success here, despite being voted top British Blues Band in the Motherland two years running. The secret is obviously out now though, and when affable frontman Alan Nimmo shakes hands with each member of the Band after coming onstage the room is packed and the Atmosphere one of expectancy.
Understandably then opener ‘More than I can Take’ had a slightly nervous air about it, of a band sniffing the air so to speak. The air sniffing didn’t last very long though and by the third track ‘Don’t you get the Feeling’ they were on a Roll that carried through the set. ‘Long History of Love’ had already been given a warm up on the derelict site across the road for an acoustic Rockpalast taster video. It’s always one of the bands popular numbers – a roller rather than a rocker but Nimmo’s eyebrows never fail to knit together in a care-worn way that gets you in the heart every time. Bassist Lindsay Coulson is looking very dapperly dressed for the show but it’s the splash of colour from Alan Nimmo’s red kilt that is, as always, makes him the bands best dressed man.
If you can tear your ears away from Nimmo’s mesmerising guitar licks (and it’s hard to do so!) you’ll hear some extremely good music coming from the fellow King King’s. Lindsay Coulson is a master at keeping it simple but paced on the button whilst Wayne Proctor is getting a sharp as a tack backbeat out of his new Sakae drum kit. He loves the sound but then he has an endorsement with them. I love the sound too Wayne! spot on Mr Proctor. Bob Fridzema made an impression playing at The Harmonie last year with Dana Fuchs and he impressed again tonight trading Hammond notes superbly with the Les Paul ones from Alan Nimmo.
Someone calls out for ‘Old Love’ of course. The Clapton classic has virtually been made the band’s own now. “Do I have to do it right NOW?!” jokes Nimmo before promising it will come later. It’s a sign of how relaxed the atmosphere has become since the opening number. When it does come it’s as spellbinding as ever. Taking the sound and the lights right down to almost, but ever so not quite, zero. The backlit silhouette of Alan Nimmo pulling every last drop of emotion from the song is one to stash in my ‘Great Rock Moments’ mental scrapbook for years to come.
There’s a stirring version of fellow Scot Frankie Millers ‘Jealousy’ to relish too , and by the time they hit the last note of a rocking ‘Let Love In’ it’s hard to believe where the time went. Just time left in fact for Alan Nimmo to take an audience picture “For me Mam!’ as he says with a boyish smile that almost makes you think he might be wearing school shorts rather than a kilt. There are thank you’s for everyone at the Harmonie and Rockpalast for making the show happen – and most poignantly a thank you to the audience for getting out to support live music. It’s really our pleasure to do so on evenings like this Alan!
and finally an extra video from Rockpalast featuring King King, fans, friends, and even me!: