Does half of King King equal half the fun? Wayne Proctor on drums and an unkilted (trousered!) Alan Nimmo are joined by Matt Beable on bass and the other half of the main attraction Stevie to present The Nimmo Brothers. How would this double Gibsoned outfit sound? “I think you’ll like it” said a smiling Wayne Proctor before the show at Spirit of 66 in Verviers.
The station at Verviers is a miniature of the City itself. Marble foundations that hark back to its Industrial Revolution era wealth, with a brick layer above that telling the tale of pragmatic survival when the textile industry pioneered here by William Cockerill unraveled.
What has flourished in the town though is its Blues scene. Behind the worn façade of a steel blind protected entrance, ‘Spirit of 66’ punches well above the City’s current weight as a live music location. Billy Cobham, Ana Popovic and the Nimmo Brothers are all due here – and that’s just this week! Stick around awhile and you’ll see Ian Siegal, Layla Zoe, Henrik Freischlader, and, yes, even the mighty King King here. When that battered steel blind rolls up it really does reveal a stairway to Bluesrock heaven.
On this particular evening when it rolls up I’m rolling in for the first time. It’s sparsely lit, and the walls are filled with what seems like every photo ever taken of the Route 66 roadsign. Follow the frames around the walls, and up the stairs there’s a small theatre style balcony. There was probably once a theatre curtain here too, but in 2014 Wayne Procters Sakae drumkit is glistening stage centre for an hour until 8.15pm when possibly the best guitarists in Scotland today walk onstage to enthusiastic cheers.
It’s a four-piece band – no keyboards this evening. Which means that with the drumkit at back someone has to appear centre stage and inevitably it’s Alan Nimmo. He will also be doing most of the audience banter this evening but brother Stevie has a presence about him that makes it clear this is a double act – The Nimmo Brothers, and if his sheer presence isn’t enough to convince you of the fact, his ferocious slide playing will leave no doubts. It’s an evening of ferocious guitar duels in fact, which is fine by me.
One Nimmo brother raises the musical bar, only for the other to ratch it up another notch. There is no winner onstage though – the winner is us, the audience, who are treated to an evening of Bluesrock guitar heaven. If there is a difference then maybe Stevie plays in a slightly higher tone. Visually he’s more rough hewn, more visceral. There’s a rawness to Stevie that gives Alan Nimmo, not exactly slightly built himself, an almost delicate quality.
Delicate isn’t the normal epithet used to describe Alan Nimmo, but it describes his exquisite feel when he turns the volume down to zero and the regular expression of concern on his face that suggests he’s constantly measuring whether the audience is enjoying his music as much as he himself is. Not that he’s unable to handle himself onstage though. Someone is heckling his older brother: “You pussy, Stevie!” is shouted out from the shadows. “That sounds odd, coming from a man with such a high voice!” answers Alan without a moments hesitation as his brother squints into the shadows to identify the hurler of said insult. Blood will spill this night? Maybe not – but sweat certainly does, and in large quantities. Not for the first time either as a look at the stains running down the polish on both mens’ guitars shows very graphically. Those Les Pauls are worktools – and their owners Artisans of their Trade every bit as skilled as those early textile craftsmen who made this City famous in its heyday.
There’s a nod to another craftsman this evening before the Bad Company/Free swagger of ‘Still Here Strumming’ when Alan dedicates the number to Walter Trout who was recently up and out of bed after a liver transplant that will hopefully see him back in the musical spotlight where he belongs. There are other craftsmen onstage too in the shapes of rhythm section Mat Beable on bass and Wayne Proctor on drums – two men you can rely on to lay down the backbeat whilst you get on with the singing and soloing. In short, the perfect foils for the Messrs Nimmo to play over. The brothers deliver a meaty rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s ‘One way out’ and there’s both ZZ Top humour and rhythm on ‘I’m in Good Shape for the Shape I’m in’. The real highlight though is of course the fabulous guitar interplay between the Brothers which reaches its musical climax on the smouldering ‘Black Cat Bone’. There’s even a touch of showmanship as the two Nimmos somehow manage to play their own guitars with the right hand but finger the frets of the others guitar with the left. Anyone know of another act that’s done that trick? If so let me know because I can’t think of one.
The show is brought to it’s considerable climax thanks to a recent meeting the guys had with Micky Moody that inspired them to take on Whitesnake’s crowdpleaser extreme – ‘Ain’t no love in the Heart of the City’. Quite clearly there’s plenty of love in the heart of THIS City for THIS Band.
Living in France makes Stevie the ideal man for CD sales in French speaking Verviers, but if he had only spoken Outer Mongolian he would still have finished the evening with empty cartons that were once filled with discs. I spy Wayne Proctor at the bar and metaphorically ‘clink’ my plastic beer glass with his. He was after all spot on with his earlier prognosis. I did enjoy it – a lot!