It was the moment when a band came of age. A sound was pinned firmly down like a butterfly for all eternity. There will never be another Thin Lizzy concert with Phil Lynott or ACDC show with Bon Scott, but we still feel the visceral power that made them great band’s through the live releases they put out. It doesn’t matter if the tracks were almost re-recorded track by track after the show, what matters is that I can put on ‘Live & Dangerous’ and hear exactly what I heard at Portsmouth Guildhall in 1978. I can tell you how amazing a Rory Gallagher show was, but without ‘Irish Tour 74’ you wouldn’t get at half the emotion – and yes, those Rockpalast shows are great, but immortality is in the vinyl grooves my friend. In this age of silver discs with ‘perfect’ sound reproduction, is there still a place for rough ‘n’ ready live Rock? Step up to the mark King King and their first ever live offering.
Certainly the King King boys, and especially drummer/producer Wayne Proctor, have done their live recording homework. Fate even gave them a guiding hand. I mean, Live from Holmfirth? The sound system had a a Rock n Roll tantrum and hey presto – live at the O2 ABC in Glasgow is the more Rock n Roll result. Thank you God.
Someone was listening to the likes of ‘Live and Dangerous’ for inspiration for sure. There’s a rumbling of drums and guitars leaking out of the speakers, and a 110% increase in tension before the first chords of ‘Lose Control’ explode simultaneously into the monitors of the ABC and the speakers of your home stereo. Those rough and ready backing vocals I so love from guitarists Gorham and Robertson on the Lizzy live disc come to mind here too. It’s a little rough touch that says “Hey, this ain’t perfect cos it’s live!” The little moments like this were what made the great live albums of the 70’s so great and that in 2016 make ‘King King Live’ great also. “Jump up and down. Make a noise. Okay?!” Alan Nimmo has that instant rapport with his audience that the best frontmen have.
‘Wait on Time’ is nothing mind-blowingly innovative musically. It’s all steady but strident walking blues rhythm and lines like “I live the life I live” are reminiscent of early Whitesnake. It’s live Blues by numbers in a way but hey, it’s a great live style that lives or dies by the energy put into it and this band oozes energy from every pore.
Tasty live Blues then, but if you want to capture the true essence of King King at this moment in time ‘Waking Up’ is the butterfly into which I suggest you stick your pin. Lindsay Coulson’s bass reverberates round my living room as vibrantly as it does around the O2’s audience. It could be no other band on the planet but this one.
‘Rush Hour’ continues to put down a marker saying ‘This is where King King were in 2016’ for all time. Away from the obvious Blues framework the sound that is pure King King and no one else begins to shine out of this disc. It’s the dry confident crunch of Wayne Proctor’s snare, the relentless nails hammered from Lindsay Coulson’s bass to ensure the beat never strays, and above all it’s the two gentlemen who weave the magic cherries on the King King Musical cake: Alan Nimmo is the obvious frontman of course. Even if he swapped his trademark kilt for Levis he would command attention. He may never equal the breadth and sheer emotional clout of Frankie Miller vocally, but you get the feeling he would willingly die trying. His guitar playing is equally squeezed from heart and soul. I can almost feel the lights go down as the opening notes of ‘Long History of Love’ flutter from the speakers. I’m remembering the moment in Troisdorf when Nimmo finished the song and took a moment to look heavenwards in memory of Scottish Rock legend Big George. The disc is doing it’s job – conjuring up great King King live moments from other shows that buyers will re-live as the likes of ‘Live and Dangerous’ did and still does for me now.
But I’ve got a bit distracted from my text. I still have one band member to mention. I have seen this band with other keyboard players but Bob Fridzema’s swirling Hammond sound gives ‘King King Live’ that extra breadth of quality and individual sound. It has me thinking just a little on occasion of ‘Made in Japan’. I really have not heard a better player with such an ear for Rock keyboard playing since Mr Jon Lord himself. His swirling sound envelopes the room on ‘More than I can take’ and he is a a joy to hear complementing Nimmo’s guitar on ‘Rush Hour’.
Time to turn over the record. Funnily enough, it seems perfectly natural to have to get up and switch discs after six songs. I’m sure this could all have fitted onto one disc, but the great live practitioners always expected their listeners to put down the air guitars and flip the black vinyl for the next half hour of ecstasy. ‘Side two’ doesn’t disappoint either. ‘You stopped the rain’ has me wishing it was the early 70’s and Nimmo would switch in Framptonesque style to a voice box on his guitar (remember those?)
Nimmo doesn’t attempt to take on the incredible voice of Frankie Miller with the latter’s ‘Jealousy’, going wisely instead for an understated vocal – but could Frankie play guitar like Alan? Let’s call it a tie shall we and if there is a winner it’s us – Joe Public – who get to listen to music played from the heart from four musicians gifted enough to convey what they feel, for us all to enjoy.
Live discs tend to be milestones. Snapshots after which band’s, for better or worse, change forever. In comes a keyboard player (Lizzy) out goes a guitarist (Purple). Hopefully King King will be around playing the way they play with the same men behind the music for a good while yet. Whatever the future may bring though, ‘King King Live’ will be testament that they were, in 2016, up there with the best live bands in the world.
“Boys and girls. Clap your hands and sing along to this one” implores Alan Nimmo before ‘Let Love In’ and who could resist responding positively to the big man’s impish grin? Not me, not every man-jack at the Glasgow O2 Arena, and, I suspect, not you either gentle reader. ‘King King Live’ . Recommended to everyone who remembers live discs as the defining musical moments they used to be.
(King King Live, a double audio + single DVD, release means you actually get two concerts for the price of one – and no queue at the cloakroom to get your coat back afterwards. What more could you ask?!)
A taster from the accompanying live DVD: