Wednesday 11th November 2015
O2 Academy, Islington, London
As the nights close in, and this year’s season of outdoor festivals fades into the memory, the UK’s beacon for live music passes to its innumerable indoor venues. Last night, the place to be was definitely the O2 Academy, with its promise of a double bill of virtuoso blues guitarists.
The evening started with the Ben Poole Band. Could Ben live up to the ringing endorsements he’s already received from Jeff Beck, Paul Jones and the late Gary Moore? He didn’t take long to answer. Ably assisted by Craig Bacon on drums and Matt Field on bass guitar he launched straight into a series of ferocious Blues numbers that gave him ample opportunity to demonstrate his skills on the guitar, and his range of vocals. Not that his whole set was explosive: the highlight for me was ‘Time Might Never Come’, an emotional tribute to Gary Moore with a slow, poignant start that gradually built up to an arousing climax. Gary would have been proud and impressed.
Possibly the only mistake in Ben’s set was its early start: at 7:30 many people were still travelling to the Academy and the audience was comparatively sparse. It built up steadily during the performance and, when he finished at 8:15, was large and appreciative. An 8pm start may have been better for both the band and its audience.
As winners of the Best Band category at the British Blues Awards for the last three years, King King definitely had a reputation to live up to. Furthermore, at this year’s awards ceremony, Alan Nimmo was both Best Vocalist and runner up Guitarist (to Aynsley Lister), and Wayne Procter has won the Drummer category in four of the last five years (what went wrong in 2012, Wayne?). And, as if to demonstrate they are not solely reliant on Blues awards, King King were nominated as Best New Band at this year’s Classic Rock Awards. Not that they’re particularly new: King King was formed from already established musicians in 2010 and have already released three acclaimed albums.
King King are based in Glasgow, but their current line-up has an international flavour with Bob Fridzema hailing from Rotterdam. Bob plays the Hammond organ and keyboard as well as providing supporting vocals. Alan Nimmo’s guitar and vocals front the band; Lindsay Coulson’s bass guitar accentuates Alan’s lead; Wayne Proctor’s dazzling drums complete the line-up.
Last night King King wasted no time in proving both their rock credentials, opening with ‘Lose Control’, and their Blues roots, following up with ‘Wait on Time’. Their set encompassed tracks from all three of their albums, ranging from the slow, harmonious blues of ‘Jealousy’, to the raucous Rock of ‘Crazy’ and the emotional ‘You Stop the Rain’, dedicated to Alan’s brother Stevie.
Often when bands announce they’re about to play songs from their new album, you can almost hear the audience groaning. This definitely wasn’t the case last night: King King’s ‘Reaching for the Light’ has already won awards and is not only faster, louder and more energetic, it is also their most acclaimed and most exciting album to date. All the songs from the album were well received: the bustling riffs and tough vocals in ‘Hurricane’, the ballad ‘Lay with Me’, Lindsay’s pulsating bass on ‘Crazy’ and the slower, powerful Blues of ‘Stranger to Love’, well suited to Alan’s vocal range.
All that was left was to finish the evening on a high. This was achieved in style with ‘Let Love In’, with the audience providing a deafening echo to Alan’s one-liners.
Overall an excellent evening of Blues and Rock - if King King’s tour is coming anywhere near you, don’t miss it - especially if Ben Poole is in support.