King King + The Damn Truth

Thursday 24th February 2022

Electric Ballroom, Camden, London

One of the joys of the live music scene is “discovering” a really good support band. A couple of gig buddies had warned me to be on time, as I wouldn’t want to miss The Damn Truth from Canada, and I’m mighty glad that I took their advice!

They hit us right between the eyes with their single ‘This Is Who We Are Now’ and barely took their feet off the gas for the rest of their set. The mate who accompanied me is a big Jefferson Airplane fan and within two minutes he was staring at me wide eyed, as if to say “this is good!” and he wasn’t wrong, although to my ears, the overall sound was more reminiscent of the wonderful Blues Pills from Sweden.

Although charismatic vocalist (and occasional rhythm guitarist) Lee-la Baum has clearly absorbed the influence of Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, the band’s overall heavy Blues/Rock sound also has broad hints of Psychedelia/Stoner and modern Prog, which make it hard to categorise. Quite where you’d file them in a record store, I’m not entirely sure, but that may not be a pressing concern while their albums remain relatively difficult to track down without paying higher import prices.

At £15 each, copies of the current CD ‘Now Or Nowhere’ had clearly sold like hot cakes, as it had sold out before the tour reached London. This was particularly sad for the collectors among us, as six of the eight tunes in the setlist were drawn from this album. By default its predecessors ‘Devilish Folk’ (from which ‘Broken Blues’ is taken, 2016) and, to a lesser degree, ‘Dear In The Headlights’ (which includes ‘Too Late’, 2012) were selling well at the merch stand, where the band was greeted enthusiastically by their new fans.

It was a surprise to find that the group has managed to fly under the UK’s radar for most of its nine years and to discover that bassist PY Letellier has only been part of the tight sound for the latest album; like Lee-la, impressive guitarist Tom Shemer and energetic drummer Dave Traina have been on board from the outset.

Hopefully The Damn Truth will grace these shores again before too long; if you check them out online, I’m confident you’ll be waiting for them with your money out when they do!

From a band with a long standing personnel to one with a relatively new line-up… Over the past three years King King has parted company with Bob Fridzema, Lindsay Coulson and Wayne Proctor and the pandemic has kept us waiting for a first live encounter with their replacements Johnny Dyke (organ and piano), Zander Greenshields (bass) and Andrew Scott (drums). I’m happy to report that, based on this hearing, normal service has been resumed as soon as possible!

The other significant change in King King’s personnel is the notable addition of Stevie Nimmo (guitar and vocals) to assist his younger brother Alan with those frontline duties. The consequent mothballing of Stevie’s fine trio is a disappointment, of course, and, while King King is clearly Alan’s band, it would be a great shame if Stevie’s undoubted talents should be restricted to a supporting role. Time will tell, I guess.

The band’s latest album ‘Maverick’ (2020) is the first to feature the new rhythm section and this was the first opportunity to showcase it, so ‘Fire In My Soul’ and ‘One World’ appeared early, the opener ‘She Don’t Gimme No Lovin’ having been taken from ‘Exile & Grace’ (2017). However, for many of us the best was yet to come…

The next four numbers included three from ‘Reaching For The Light’ (2015) and another from ‘Standing In The Shadows’ (2013), all of which have been live favourites ever since their release. ‘Waking Up’ had just that effect on the whole room and got everyone ready for a bit of call and response vocal action during ‘Rush Hour’. ‘A Long History Of Love’ was better still, with some lovely keyboards followed by a great guitar solo by Alan, who then paid heartfelt tribute to his big brother when introducing ‘You Stopped The Rain’ (written to mark Stevie’s successful battle with cancer a few years ago). Beautiful stuff.

‘Coming Home’ (also from 2013) was sandwiched between three more ‘Maverick’ songs, the best of which, ‘Whatever It Takes’, put the spotlight on Stevie’s guitar. ‘Let Love In’ (another from ‘Standing In The Shadows’) sent the band off stage briefly to rapturous applause, as usual, but they were soon back for their encore.

‘When My Winter Comes’ proved to be perhaps the best of the ‘Maverick’ songs and was performed by the trio of the Nimmo brothers and Jonny Dykes, with some great harmony vocals. The full band then brought things to a close with ‘Stranger To Love’ (another from ‘Reaching For The Light’), which might perhaps have been better earlier in the evening; a respectful hush, while Alan reduced his guitar volume to near silence, was always going to be difficult when minds were drifting towards the pub/toilets/merch stand!

While it may take a little while longer for the ‘Maverick’ songs to develop earworm status, like those from the first half of the decade have, King King remain a polished live act which continue to reward its dedicated following. To both bands on the night I say: “here’s to the next time!”

Setlists:

TDT – This Is Who We Are Now; Full On You; Too Late; Broken Blues;
Lonely; Only Love; Look Innocent; Tomorrow.

KK – She Don’t Gimme No Lovin’; Fire In My Soul; One World; Waking Up;
Rush Hour; A Long History Of Love; You Stopped The Rain; Everything
Will Be Alright; Coming Home; Whatever It Takes; I Will Not Fall; Let
Love In; When My Winter Comes; Stranger To Love.

Gary Smith