Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Saturday 22nd October 2022

O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

There’s been a Blues storm building in the Mississippi Delta for a number of years now and it goes by the name of Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. I was lucky enough to see him breach our shores back in June and was delighted to see him again tonight at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. With unbelievable talent on the six-string and a warm and powerful voice to match, this was going to be a treat.

Aged only 23 years old and with only the two albums so far, he is a young hand in an aging genre. However, having already won a GRAMMY at this year's awards (for best Blues contemporary album) and awards from The UK Blues Federation (best international artist) and JazzFM (best blues artist), this highly polished man from Clarksdale Mississippi has already been playing Blues in front of a crowd for the last 13 years (when he first started sneaking out at night at 10 years old to take the stage). With career support from Buddy Guy and Tom Hambridge – you know he’s in safe hands and firmly included in the next generation of Blues players.

The show started strong and lively with ‘She Calls Me Kingfish’ that lead into his first single release ‘Fresh Out’, a reflective look on life without one’s significant other that was recorded originally with Buddy Guy singing the last verse and playing guitar. The song live does not suffer without Guy with Kingfish effortlessly filling the gaps. His smooth yet mature voice does not offer a hint at his age like many others currently rising around him in the Blues.

‘Another Life Goes By’ takes a turn, slower and more emotional. He sings with passion about the problems with race relations in the US, and the unnecessary loss of life both within and outside communities. As the song fades out, a solitary hand wipes his brow and down his face. You know this means something on so many levels. ‘Empty Promises’ follows, an emotional look back at love that eventually only went one way. This is a personal favourite of mine, and I recommend to anyone having a hard time. The lyrics are good, but the guitar truly delivers the feeling of the song.

‘Not Gonna Lie’ picks the mood up instantly, with a few surprises that have the audience applauding and screaming along. Mid solo Kingfish makes his way off stage left and joins the crowd in the stalls, navigating his way around the packed-out floor (see the accompanying gallery!). The crowd is remarkably controlled and encouraging him without disturbing the act with much more than a selfie. He returns towards the stage as the solo continues, only to appear on the first floor where he walks down to the balcony edge and keeps playing. He still has not missed a note or a bend! Kingfish then sits down in a seat in the rows, which is met with laughter and applause, and you have already guessed it - continues to solo. After a minute he rises and channelling Jimi Hendrix, continues to play but with his teeth. This guy is the real deal. Returning to the stage he goes into the final verse and finishes the song to a standing ovation. I think that we were all exhausted!

‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’ plays through slowly, before the band leave the stage and Kingfish picks up his Fender Acoustasonic. ‘Been Here Before’ then starts, a rootsy and authentic delta Blues track referencing his grandmother’s words when he was young: “Chile, you been here before”. ‘Something In The Dirt’ and ‘You’re Already Gone’ continue this snap back to more traditional Blues, and it proves outright that whether modern electric or acoustic traditional, Kingfish has a firm grip on his roots.

The set winds down with Kingfish playing his other two singles of note from each album. ‘Outside Of This Town’ tells of a young man ready to see beyond his hometown, which he then linked slowly through music of revelation into ‘662’ (title track of his second album) which tells of pride of his city and area code. The crowd of course demanded more which led to ‘Long Distance Woman’ (via instrumentals of ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ and ‘Regulate’), and the a roaring tribute to ‘Hey Joe’, in which he casually samples almost every guitar genre you can think of through the extended solos.

It was a packed out crowd at the Empire made up of those who already knew him and those who had been told to attend, but this really didn’t matter. Kingfish has the ability to pick up a crowd in a single hand and reach into them in any way he chooses. Dulcet tones and unbelievable guitar mastery had everybody switching from cheering and clapping, via dancing, to silence and reflection through the slower tracks.

What could wrap this entire package up in a perfect bow? His personality. He is kind and humble, with a Southern pride that means you’re addressed with perfect manners in any interaction. An example of this nature comes with the generosity he shows with his own time, staying back over an hour talking and signing for anybody who wanted to take the time to wait.

I also should give a shout out to his flawless band who also travelled over for the gig. Paul Rogers is an exceptional bassist who manages to pull off a look of cool and effortless. Drummer Chris Black does not miss a beat and provides a wonderful rhythm to the show (it takes a great man to sit in for studio drummer and producer Tom Hambridge). Newly joined DeShawn “Dvibes” Alexander is a wonderful musician who can fit a bit of any song into what’s being played, my personal favourite being Inspector Gadget!

The future is bright for Kingfish, and he’ll be returning to our shores in 2023. He is currently one of the best Blues artists (and one of the best guitarists) that you’re yet to see. The man does not miss a note. He doesn’t strain his voice or waiver from his songs given the ever-changing arrangements between shows. Make sure you are there to see him and have a listen to the first album ‘Kingfish’ and sophomore album ‘662’ to be ready. This kid is a sensation, and we can’t afford to be left behind.

Setlist:

She Calls Me Kingfish
Fresh Out
Another Life Goes By
Empty Promises
Not Gonna Lie
Your Time Is Gonna Come
Been Here Before (acoustic)
Something In The Dirt (acoustic)
You’re Already Gone (acoustic)
Outside Of This Town
(into church intro to)
662
(Encore)
Long Distance Woman
Hey Joe

Chris Griffiths