As we walked into the beautiful surrounds of the second city’s Town Hall tonight, MV’s mate said: “do you know, the first time I came here was to see Bill Haley and the Comets in 1961”. Those words have a greater resonance when The Damn Truth’s singer Lee-la Baum talks about how great it is to be here in a place that has so much history, and it seems to almost sum them up too, because TDT almost belong to a different time themselves. The band who met at a hippie festival, seem to have never left. Their 2021 record – their third – “Now Or Nowhere” was described on these very pages thus: “there’ll not be a better hard rock record in 2021 than this one” and six of the seven they play here are from it. And my goodness “This Is Who We Are Now” is a stunning opening. Baum puts down her guitar and dons a tambourine for “Too Late” (the only one that isn’t from “…Nowhere”) and the extra percussion on “Lonely” gives that one a real primal push. The stage shapes created by PY Letellier on bass are sensational, as are the band more specifically. Let’s not forget either, for all the magnetism they have The Damn Truth have a clutch of wonderful songs. Not least amongst them is “Only Love” and “Tomorrow” the last one might be the best. Birmingham, you imagine, has a special place in their musical hearts, given the history of this city, but for the singer, it has a more practical reason to be remembered. “You know,” she whispers, “my first lover was from Birmingham.” Let’s put the rumours to bed, it wasn’t your humble scribe, but my word, there’s plenty to love about the band.
It was the first of February 2019, sitting – just about – where I am now, when I last saw King King. If you’d have told me that night that it was going to be 1117 days until I saw them again, I think I’d have laughed at you. First, because they are – and let’s be up front about this – one of my absolute favourite bands. The one I’ve seen most, probably since MV was born in 2014. Second, because this was a band that lived on the road, and moreover loved being there.
Not for nothing, then, does Alan Nimmo – the bands irrepressible front man – say many times in the hour and 45 minutes they are on stage, “its so good to be back”.
Maybe because so much has happened to the band since – this is a brand new line up, crucially including the other Nimmo brother, Stevie – and so much, no doubt has happened to everyone in the audience that there is a genuine air of celebration as they walk out on stage to “Highway To Hell” as ever.
From that comes “(She Don’t) Give Me No Lovin’” and its interesting to hear this version of KK play it – and all the others – because it’s a very different sounding outfit than before. Bass man Zander Greenshields and Drummer Andrew Scott (a graduate of the Berkley College) give the rhythm a fresh sound and Stevie Nimmo, as ever with a second guitar player, adds a real extra bite.
“Fire In My Soul” from the “new” “Maverick” record (if a record that came out in 2020 can be new?) shows that album in a real wonderful light, and “One World” – an anthem for togetherness – gives a metaphorical group hug.
Then Nimmo plays his trump card. “Waking Up”. From their wonderful, breakthrough, record “Reaching For The Light”. The line “stand up” sees the venue, which is ostensibly all seated, become anything but, and all of a sudden, this is rock n roll in the raw. And make no mistake about it, these days, this is a rock n roll band.
“Rush Hour” is their anthem. The centrepiece, still and it’s a beauty. Indeed, it’s difficult not to hear it and get lost in a reverie of your own choosing as you reflect on the last couple of years.
“Long History Of Love” and “You Stopped The Rain” – the song written for Stevie and tonight dedicated to their mother -provide the engine room, as it were, and the pair of “Whatever It Takes To Survive” (on which, the brothers do a dual guitar part that is utterly Thin Lizzy), and the fabulous “I Will Not Fall” (actually the one that I’d not heard them play live before that most connected) are surely cemented into the set for years to come.
It seems that there’s going to be an encore – and certainly Stevie puts his guitar down – but instead “Let Love In” provides its feelgood uplift, and you are almost ready to declare the pandemic over.
When the encore does happen, it is the most stark change. “When My Winter Comes” is fragile, yet stoic, all it once and sees Jonny Dyke (who has been wonderful all night) at his absolute best, and “Long History Of Love” is – as it ever was – a vehicle for that most stunning of solo’s that Alan Nimmo always plays. It’s easy to forget, as he fronts a rock band and is so thrilled to so do, just how good a guitar player he is. This will remind you.
Like everyone, I had struggles over the last couple of years, so, surely, can’t be alone in viewing tonight rather emotionally, as some kind of reawakening, reward almost. The best concert since they resumed? Probably, but it actually meant more. To the band as well as the crowd, hopefully. And on reflection this simply has to be the best and most natural that King King have ever been.
MAIN PIC OF KING KING – MANNY MANSON