A double bill of quality again as King King hit Bonn once again with South African born guitar maestro Dan Patlansky to open. There’s really no excuse anymore for saying ‘King who?’ when this band is mentioned. One of the best live bands in Europe, indeed the World I would suggest. Blues Rock with a hint of Funk anybody? If your answer to that is yes, then Wednesday at Bonn Harmonie was where you needed to be.
There’s nothing I love more than following lesser known bands I like and seeing them emerge butterfly like as fully fledged stars – from both musical and audience perspectives. Contacts in England had been raving for some time about this ‘supergroup’ from Britain with a kilted guitarist and one of the hottest backing bands around. Edinburgh Blues Club singing the praises of a Scottish guitarist ? Okay, maybe favoritism. But endless Blues polls on the island putting drummer Wayne Proctor and keyboard man Bob Fridzema constantly in best musician lists too?
2013 saw me go back to school. No, not my old school, but the Realschule in Troisdorf. An inauspicious start in Bonn for a band rated so highly. The same year and a pub gig in the gloriously named ‘Godorfer Burg’ in Wesseling faced a challenge as to how many people can you cram into a pub whilst still giving the barman room enough to pull a pint?
Memories since then of the band’s appearances at the Harmonie include ‘The long history of… Bong!‘ as a Rockpalast video shoot outside across the road had to be filmed all over again as the local church clock chimed 6pm during the last verse of ‘Long History of Love’.
Here we are now, 2018 and a crowded Harmonie, where the band and their music are no longer strangers but more like old friends to the entire audience. I hear some mutterings about their always being a support act at King King shows “We paid to see King King, etc etc…” which I don’t understand. Last year we had to ‘bear’ listening to Ben Poole, this year it’s Dan Patlansky. Oh dear, how terrible! two dynamite musicians who I would gladly pay to see on their own. No complaints from me guys. Getting great music out there to the public? keep it coming.
Waiting for the doors to open I meet a lady who has come all the way from Hamburg. A big King King fan? I ventured to suggest. “Actually,it was Dan Patlansky who had inspired her journey. I have to say that, despite being rather shoehorned onto the stage front (with the King King gear behind) Patlansky and band did indeed impress me enough to understand why she had made the effort.
Dan Patlansky has the letters T.O.N.E. on the fingers of his right hand. It quickly becomes clear that this isn’t a style decision, but a reminder to him (and those stage-front too perhaps?) that it’s not enough to choose the right note, it also has to be the right tone. There were some excellent songs in Patlansky’s set but they seem to always take second place to the guitar, having to sit on the emotion of every carefully chosen strike and bend of a string.
The band were also excellent, so I was surprised to hear that this is actually a combo from Hamburg and not Patlansky’s band back home in Johannesburg. Hats off therefore to Tom Gatza (keys), Jonathan Murphy (bass) and Felix Dehmel (drums) even though I couldn’t actually see the latter behind his kit, he sounded rock solid. A great way to kick off the evening and on the advice of my chance meeting with the Patlansky fan from earlier I purchased Patlansky’s acoustic disc ‘Wooden Thoughts’ which I recommend. Can you stand another version of Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’? He even breathes new life into that classic. No ‘Hallelujah’ this evening, just some great songs and superlative guitar work. RUF Records check this man out. I advise you, dear reader, to do the same.
King King time and the lights go down as AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’ cranks up in the speakers. I hope the and don’t actually see a trip to Bonn as a trip on that most unwelcome of motorways. We were certainly very happy to see them. In keeping with the most recent studio release ‘Exile & Grace’ the band’s sound was somewhat heavier than perhaps early King King sets from those 2013 days back in Troisdorf and Wesseling. That AC/DC tape introducing them says a lot. I don’t have a problem with that – Bad Company and Thin Lizzy are in Alan Nimmo’s veins by every solo – the Gibson side of guitar heroes as I see them.
There’s Rock in a Pop vein to open with ‘She don’t gimme no lovin’ to kick things off in toe tapping style but Bad Company are certainly in the Rockier numbers of King King. ‘Lose Control’ and ‘Long Time Running’ are reminiscent of BC at their strident best. Nimmo switches guitar frequently, often from Les Paul to Stratocaster, ‘as tone requires’ Dan Patlansky might say. Never does he have to give a thought to what the rest of the band are doing, because they run almost like clockwork now. Coulson and Proctor barely have to exchange glances to check where the groove is at any point.
There’s a fair bit of the latest disc played, but no worries KK fans, there are still plenty of classics in the set from past discs. ‘You stopped the Rain’ has long been a crowd pleaser, as has ‘Long History of Love’. Missing from the set is Clapton’s ‘Old Love’ sadly. It was a number that gave Nimmoa a chance to dig emotion deep from his guitar. All is not lost though because the same emotion can be heard to great effect on ‘Stranger to Love’. That moment when the volume pot on Nimmos guitar is switched to ‘0’gets me every time (disapproving looks all-round from on and off stage as some wag in the audience shouted out “Louder!”. Somehow it is possible to wring emotion from an electric guitar that is effectively switched off. But then, if you’ve seen King King in the past then you will know this anyway. The said volume ‘pot’ quickly goes back to higher numbers and the music is all the more dramatic for it.
What else can I report? There is, was, and hopefully always will be, an element of funk in King Kings sound. Not least because bassman Lindsay Coulson’s style brings it out so well. Tonight it comes best from an oldie but goodie in the form of ‘All Your Life’ from 2013’s ‘Take My Hand’ release. Despite being the oldest number in tonight’s set it is also a number that new band member Jonny Dyke gets to shine on, along with ‘Rush Hour’ (where he has to compete with the audience going “Woh oh ah, woh oh ah!” in sing-a-long fashion). Yes, I miss Bob Fridzema, but I can’t imagine a better man to fill in those shiny leather Hammond shoes than Dyke.
“This world is broken – there’s no future anymore” sings Nimmo from ‘Broken’ on the latest disc. As long as there is a King King show pencilled in near you though there most certainly IS a future to look forward to.
Back at the merchandise table many fans are having pictures taken with Alan Nimmo (not a few of them female I should add). I reminded him that last year he was unable to do this, under doctors orders to rest his voice after shows. “I should still be taking it carefully” he replies. “But I wanted to come out and meet people” There you have it, in a nut-shell, why King King are so popular a live band. They care about, and talk to, the fans. Oh, and possibly the fact that they make great music has something to do with it too!
Back in the bus I meet the Dan Patlansky fan en-route back to Bonn Station and Hamburg. She in turn is deep in conversation with two fans also heading back to the station for a long trip back to Hamburg. A reflection of the music and the musicians onstage tonight that people are happy to travel a bit to see them. It’s the sort of fan that only bands who give 100% get, and deserve. King King Rule! Enough said.