King King swept the board at this year’s British Blues Awards, taking home trophies for Male Vocals, Bass, Drums, Band and Album, as well as being runners up in the Guitarist and Song Categories. All the accolades haven’t translated into big venues in Europe yet, but what it does mean is that the smaller venues get very crowded and very sold out very quick. Join me in a hot and sweaty part of Cologne just off the B9 called the Yardclub for some equally hot and sweaty Blues.
I’m told the capacity at Yardclub, smaller brother of the Kantine next door, is around 250. I can only imagine some of those must stand on tables and even the bar itself to fit inside. It’s certainly an evening when you get there early, decide on a place to stand, and cling to it with the certainty that it will evaporate in the time it takes to say – “Just going out for a breath of fresh air”. My own feet are solidly planted at the foot of the four steps leading up to the stage, so I have to breath in and lean back to let Alan Nimmo and his able crew of musicians onto the stage at precisely 8pm. The band plugs in, Nimmo ritually touches knuckles with each of them and wishes them a good show – and we are off on a trip to Bluesrock heaven.
The King King setlist pretty much chooses itself these days I would think. They have played plenty of shows this past year to know which of their tracks are most popular onstage and played them enough to know how people want to hear them. Hitting the ground running was what Phil Lynott used to advocate for live shows, and it’s just what the band tonight do with the frenetic ‘More Than I Can Take’. I’ve always loved ‘Don’t you get the Feeling’ live and today it’s early in the set. From where I’m standing (still rooted by the stage steps) the sound is rather ‘rattle your teeth’ jangling but I suspect that I’m hearing it more from Lindsay Coulson ‘s bass monitor than from the main speakers. If it’s rattling me it’s having no effect on Mr Coulson who is standing comfortably to attention and looking his typically cool ‘I’m not part of the madness’ self. I keep him in my line of sight in case he has a moment of craziness that I can capture on camera – but I’m not optimistic about my chances.
Back on the drumstool multi award winner Wayne Proctor regularly grits his teeth and hits his snare drum so hard I can see it jump back up at him. All I can see of keyboard man (and Dutch Blues Award nominee) Bob Fridzema is his snakeskin shoes on the footpedals and the top of his head. I can hear him well enough though to know where that award nomination was earned. In front, out front, and firmly ‘In your face’ in the best possible manner is of course the best guitar player in a kilt in the world, Mr Alan Nimmo (although he has a rival in his own brother Stevie for that title). You really cannot help but like Alan Nimmo. Maybe it’s the white socks and the bare legs, but I rather think it’s that big grin that make him look like a happy schoolboy who’s just slipped a frog down the back of his classmates shirt during double Latin class.
What’s making Alan Nimmo happy tonight though is in fact that high-tech plank of wood he’s holding in his hand called a Gibson Les Paul. It’s making around 250 other people very happy too. There are many, many excellent guitar players in this world but only a very few who sound as if, rather than playing the guitar it is in fact playing them. The emotions flow out as emotions rather than mere notes. When we come to Nimmo’s version of the Clapton classic ‘Old Love’ they seem even to bleed out, particularly when the volume knob takes it’s famous turn in the direction of zero.
It’s been an evening of familiar faces and familiar sounds but there was a chance to hear new material in the shape of a funky number called ‘Just a Little Lie’. We will have to wait a while to get our hands on, and ears round, the new CD though – it’s well underway I’m informed with a release date hopefully in the first quarter of 2015. I would think that concerts between now and then will have some very pleasant additions to their setlists.
Gig over and it’s the last one in Germany. Not for long I’m sure. This band seems tireless and it’s hard to imagine Alan Nimmo not stepping in front of an audience for more than a few days with this band or his brother. Putting him in a studio is rather like putting a lion in a circus to perform and this is a band that lives for the wildness of Motels, Motorways and Live Music. Well maybe it could be a little less ‘wild’. Nimmo thanks Club owner Marcus Neu for helping sort out the problems with their van during the show. The heavy touring schedule is taking it’s toll on their transport – but judging by the smiles and enthusiasm, not on the band that travels all over the world in it.
While I’m on the subject of Marcus Neu and his aid to the bands traveling problems I should add that if you love good Rock and Blues music then Yardclub/Kantine Cologne is somewhere you really should check out. They don’t always have the biggest acts but they do have many of the best and the chances of seeing someone here in front of a hundred or so people who will be playing in front of 1000+ soon after are high. King King are one of them.