King King + Rhino's Revenge
Wednesday 17th January
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Life is all about choices. One of which is which band do I go to see for my first review of 2018? Do I go and see the fabulous Sari Schorr at the Half Moon in Putney or do I see King King and Rhino’s Revenge at the Shepherds Bush Empire? Tough decision. Now I could make some terribly contrived play on words about "A bird in a band is worth two at the Bush" but that would be contemptible on so many levels …. so I won’t. Instead, I will tell you that I opted for the latter, and a good choice it was too. A wet and blustery Wednesday night finds yours truly rocking up at the excellent Shepherd's Bush Empire, the iconic music venue, originally built in the early 1900’s as a music hall. So a pedigree venue that has pleasingly been catering for musical tastes, as originally intended, for over a century. With a capacity of about 2,000, the theatre style venue has a large standing auditorium with seated circles and boxes. It is of a size that allows both a feeling of crowding and intimacy with excellent acoustics. Tonight sees that capacity near full with stalwart Blues lovers, busy enough for a great atmosphere but with enough room to swing a zimmer or make a break for the loos. So how do opening support act Rhino’s Revenge go down with this Blues loving crowd?
Rhino’s Revenge is the touring band of Status Quo bassist’s John "Rhino" Edwards. A self-confessed revolving door of artists, Rhino describes the band as being like a low league football team, constantly utilising on-loan players. Well he has managed to get some Premier League players in his current team. The trio consists of Rhino on bass and vocals with FM’s Jim Kirkpatrick on guitar and drummist Richard Newman, who has worked with the likes of Paul Rodgers and Rory Gallagher, on percussion. The set consists of a number of Status Quo covers but is also varied enough to be described as Blues, Rock and even Punk at times. Rhino is a cheerful frontman at ease chatting with the crowd whilst having a great time playing some Quo tracks that might not make a Quo setlist but are deserving of some live airplay love. Opening track 'One Note Blues' sets the scene with a great Blues boogie getting the crowd warmed nicely. Guitarist Kirkpatrick sports a lovely blond Fender Telecaster and is the vibrant sound of the band with Rhino and Newman providing the strong rhythmic backing. The setlist meanders through whimsical tracks like 'My Name Is Stan' – a song written about Rhino’s dog – to the politically charged 'Republican'. Written 20 plus years ago about bigoted US politicians, the song resonates today all the more than the day it was penned. Although the set included a number of Quo covers, this didn’t feel like a Quo set – the songs were distinct enough to make this a Rhino Revenge gig rather than a Quo tribute band. In fact the only track that felt like a Quo track was closing song 'Two Way Traffic', a radio staple from the 2011 album 'Quid Pro Quo'. The set was entertaining and musically tight. Rhino has a good voice and is able to multitask the incredibly difficult challenge of playing bass and singing. A much more difficult feat than you might think. With a number of dates booked in the coming months, go out and see the Rhino to make sure he doesn’t become an endangered species.
Rhino’s Revenge set list:
One Note Blues
Belavista Man (Status Quo cover)
Gravy Train (Status Quo cover)
Busy Doing Nothin'
My Name Is Stan
Bad News (Status Quo cover)
Two Way Traffic (Status Quo cover)
King King are a band I have seen a number of times before and was due to see at the end of 2017 but the gig was cancelled due to voice issues for lead singer Alan Nimmo. Indeed, I reviewed their gig in November 2016 and the cherubic Mr. Nimmo was suffering with health issues then. Tonight, he took to the stage in fine form and in hale and hearty health. It’s the opening night of his new tour which he describes as being a baptism of fire playing at such a prestigious venue. But Mr. Nimmo is too modest. King King have been a rising star that have had commercial success as well as professional recognition. The Shepherd’s Bush Empire is the obvious choice for a band of this stature. And the size of the obviously devoted crowd supports this too. The four piece consists of frontman Glaswegian Nimmo swapping between his trusty ‘Fat Strat’, which gets the bulk of attention, and a very tasty Gibson Les Paul. Played through some sumptuous Budda Superdrive amp heads, this is a real quality tone rig. The humbucker on the silver Fat Strat gives the superb Blues axe that extra kick in the sporran and the Les Paul just drips warmth. The smiling Lowlander is supported by regulars Lindsay Coulson on bass and Wayne Proctor on drums and completing the line up on keys is new boy Jonny Dyke. Although Nimmo is the focus of the band with his exquisite vocals and guitars skills, Dyke provides the strong rhythm and melody to each song. Utilising a mix of organ and piano, there are hints of the band that Nimmo’s Whitesnake t-shirt proclaims.
The set is a nice choice of new tracks from the latest album 'Exile & Grace', released in October 2017, as well as some tracks that can now be considered old favourites. Although debut album 'Standing In The Shadows' was only released in 2013. Set opening track '(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin', also the opening track of the album, starts with an intro showcase of Dyke’s organ skills before developing into a full on Blues Rock track. Nimmo holds the stage – bright red tartan kilt and suede workboots sharply contrasting his black Rock t-shirt – with his beaming childlike smile warming the hearts, and making him look like a big kid in a sweet shop. His silver Strat is put through its paces with a dexterity that is intricate but not overly flashy. It's Rock Blues played the way it should be. With thanks to the audiences patience - the gig was postponed last year due to his voice issues – the band follow with 'Waking Up' from the 'King King Live' album. Another rocky Blues track, it shows that the voice is back where it should be. No signs of damage or decay here. The slower and more melodic 'You Stopped The Rain' is a thoughtful song written about his brother Stevie’s illness. Melodic, but not gloomy, it’s a heartfelt song about dealing with suffering, although with a positive lilt. It gives the big man a chance to wear his big heart on his big sleeve.
Switching to the Les Paul, Nimmo raises the environmental banner with 'Broken', a song about the damage being done to the planet. A serious subject, yet played with that ecstatic smile on his face, the song is a with a strong singalong chorus ably supported by Dykes organ sound. It’s another from the new album that looks like it will become a staple set list track. Switching back to the Strat, and keeping Dyke very much to the fore, 'Long History Of Love' from the 'Standing In The Shadows' album is a real crowd pleaser with a surprisingly strong crowd singalong. That is the benefits of having sensible sound levels - great band sound and the ability to hear the crowd. It’s a mellow Blues ballad with a great keyboard solo. Great song. 'Lose Control' and 'Rush Hour' are older songs and crowd favourites with further crowd participation. New album track 'Long Time Running' shows off Proctor's drumming skills, with hints of the Rolling Stones about the track, before Nimmo switches back to the Les Paul for 'Stranger To Love'. Unusually, he dedicates the track to a member of the audience who is celebrating their birthday. Cheaper than buying a card I suppose. It’s a slow sultry Blues track, in the Paul Rodgers style with an extensive guitar solo allowing us to experience the delightful sounds of Gibson’s premiere export. The solo dips and builds with the now famous acoustic playing (i.e. not through the amp) to a near silent audience straining to hear the sound of wire and wood echoing off of the cavernous music hall walls. The song certainly finished on a high, both musically and sonically.
Set closers saw Nimmo switch back to the Strat again for classic Rock Blues track 'Crazy' and then getting funky with 'All Your Life'. This gave the band the chance for some serious jamming to the rapturous applause of the masses. The obligatory encores saw the four heroes emerge with beaming smiles and launch into new track 'Find Your Way Home', a slow Rock type ballad that has hints of 80’s AOR stadium Rock about it before finishing up with the ever popular 'Let Love In'. As a happy band left the stage, the infectious Nimmo grin had found its way onto every face in the venue. Shepherd's Bush Empire building was completed in the King King reign. Job done. Well Done. On an evening of choices, the bands choice of tracks were a great mix of songs showcasing their multiple talents and showed that my choice of gig was a good one. What a great way to start a new year of music. Let’s hope both bands have a successful year ahead, with albums to tour and fans to amass. They are definitely worth a view, both are great bands. This wasn’t just a good gig. It was choice.
King King set list
(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin
You Stopped The Rain
Long History Of Love
Long Time Running
Stranger To Love
All Your Life
Find Your Way Home
Let Love In
Mother (Photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey and Edyta Krzesak)