Marcus King + Ida Mae
Tuesday 21st March 2023
O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London
I’m glad I arrived in time to catch the second half of the support set by Ida Mae, a musical couple who divide their time between Norfolk and Nashville and who boast tonight’s headliner as guest guitar soloist on two tracks of their 2021 second album ‘Click Click Domino’.
Chris and Stephanie Jean Turpin share vocal duties, with Chris also on guitars; tonight they were joined only by string bass (Nick Pini, I think, who plays on both Ida Mae albums, the debut being ‘Chasing Lights’, 2019), but still managed to crank up the volume to get the punters’ toes tapping and heads nodding in appreciation.
Chris was kind enough to handwrite the setlist for me at the merch stand during the interval and I enjoyed the music enough to invest in both CDs. ‘Only Reaching’ (from the debut) and ‘Detroit To Buffalo’ (as yet unrecorded) were not from ‘Click Click Domino’, which is probably the consistently stronger album. The title track and the closing ‘Long Gone & Heartworn’ were probably the picks, but it may have been that the band was just hitting it’s stride after 20-30 minutes; I’ll be interested to hear a headline set in order to find out.
Despite his cherubic smile, it’s hard to believe that Marcus King is still only 27, but that’s probably because he was barely out of his teens when I first caught up with him in 2016. On that occasion it was a raucous free gig at the Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch in support of the ‘Marcus King Band’ album; I knew he was highly regarded by Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers Band & Gov’t Mule) and that was recommendation enough to draw me in. And there I’ve stayed!
He may be a young man, but he has an old soul; his guitar solos would not sound out of place on Chess Blues from the 50s or Southern Rock from the 70s, while his voice is drenched in the Stax Soul sound of the 60s. With an eight-piece line-up including a horn section, Marcus is well able to push all those stylistic boundaries.
‘It’s Too Late’ opened the set, just as it introduces Marcus’ most recent album (‘Young Blood’, 2022), before Mike Runyan’s swampy keyboard sounds and Drew Smithers’ impressive slide guitar shone on ‘Virginia’ (from the ‘MKB’ album). Murmurs of appreciation greeted the familiar introduction to Blind Faith’s ‘Had To Cry Today’, with the leader quickly removing any doubts that he could do full justice to both Winwood’s vocals and Clapton’s guitar solo.
The soulful voice soared again on Marvin Gaye’s ‘Trouble Man’, with the leader taking two guitar solos, either side of Chris Spies’ tenor sax interlude, before trading solos with Smithers. ‘After Pain’ from the latest album, Runyan’s gospel-like organ ushered in a fine cover of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Many Rivers To Cross’, but even that vocal was trumped by Marcus on the following ‘Beautiful Stranger’ (from ‘El Dorado’, 2020; like ‘Young Blood’, produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys).
‘Horny Jail’ (as yet unrecorded, I believe) was quickly followed by two more ‘Young Blood’ songs in ‘Aim High’ and ‘Dark Cloud’, then ‘Guess Who’, which was a hit for Jesse Belvin as long ago as 1959 (barely months before the crooner joined the “27 Club” in a fatal road accident). During this section Marcus managed to change guitars twice, while the horn section switched to percussion; Alex Bradley (trumpet), Kyle Snuffer (trombone) and Spies’ sax were exchanged for cowbell, tambourine and congas respectively.
Back on their primary instruments, the horn players were introduced and allowed to shine on ‘Danny Boy’, before guest UK trumpeter Nick Etwell joined in for ‘Fraudulent Waffle’ (from MK’s debut ‘Soul Insight’, 2014) and ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ (from the Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’). The horns reverted to percussion for the recent ‘Good And Gone’, before the stage was left to Jack Ryan for a four minute drum solo. A honourable mention here too for bassist Stephen Campbell, who didn’t solo, but kept the band securely anchored all night.
Marcus returned for a soulful ‘Wildflowers & Wine’ (from ‘El Dorado’), before launching into a rockier medley which featured songs by himself (‘Lie Lie Lie’ from ‘Young Blood’), the Jeff Beck Group (‘Rice Pudding’ from ‘Beck-Ola’) and Elton John (‘Madman Across The Water’). No time to regain our collective breath before Marcus and Smithers led the main set’s conclusion with ‘Comin’ Home’ (a Delaney & Bonnie recording which benefitted from Clapton’s guitar and probably, at times, also those of Dave Mason and George Harrison). Phew!
Returning for his encore, Marcus gave us a fine rendition of ‘Goodbye Carolina’ (surprisingly, the only song from ‘Carolina Confessions’, 2018, on the night), before welcoming Etwell again and guitarist Josh Blake on stage for the closing number. The setlist showed an intention to play ‘The Well’ (from ‘El Dorado’), but, to these ears, it was replaced by Bobby Bland’s ‘Turn On Your Love Light’, complete with a call and response vocal exchange between Marcus and the audience (which was eating out of his hand by then!).
On the way out complete strangers were comparing notes on how impressed they were; that should be all the recommendation that anyone needs to check out MK’s albums and prepare for his next tour.
IM – Raining For You; Reaching; Detroit To Buffalo; Click Click Domino; Long
Gone & Heartworn.
MK – It’s Too Late; Virginia; Had To Cry Today; Trouble Man; Pain; Many
Rivers To Cross; Beautiful Stranger; Horny Jail; Aim High; Dark Cloud;
Guess Who; Danny Boy; Fraudulent Waffle; Can’t You Hear Me
Knocking; Good And Gone; drum solo; Wildflowers & Wine; Lie Lie Lie/
Rice Pudding/Madman Across The Water; Comin’ Home; Goodbye
Carolina; Turn On Your Love Light.