Having already laid a blazing trail across the UK with the Broken Witt Rebels, Bad Touch show no sign of slowing down despite the mammoth nature of this trek supporting King King. With new boy Harry Slater delivering impressive guitar work, the band play a short but impressive set, with highlights including an elegant ‘take your time’, the heavily rotated single ‘99%’ and a closing behemoth in the form of ‘The mountain’, a hulking blues rock monster that plays out like a cross between Led Zeppelin and Joe Bonamassa. The band as a whole are slightly less energetic on stage than I imagined they would be, but frontman Stevie Westwood certainly looks the part, keeping the audience engaged, and there’s no question that Bad touch ooze class. They even throw in a cheeky cover of the legendary Black Crowes’ ‘hard to handle’ and throughout their set it’s hard not to marvel at the whip-like power of the drums and the solos that Harry seemingly conjures at will. Bad Touch are most certainly ones to watch and their music is tailor made for the stage. 8
I came late to the King king party, introduced to the band by a trusted colleague with the ‘reaching for the light’ album. Instantly impressed, I was even more taken by last year’s excellent double live album but, in truth, nothing on record matches the majesty of King King in the live environment. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see the band in their natural habitat and I can’t imagine a better venue than Leamington Spa’s glorious Assembly Rooms. A friendly, attractively laid out venue with cracking sound, it makes for an intimate show in which the band happily trade banter with a vocal audience throughout the lengthy set.
Poignantly the band come on stage to a recording of ‘Cochise’ (Audioslave), paying tribute to fallen singer Chris Cornell (to whom Alan later dedicates the set), but the band choose to celebrate the singer’s life rather than contemplate his death and, as they launch into the energetic ‘more than I can take’ (from 2013’s ‘standing in the shadows’ album) the “woah” chorus gets the audience into a positive mood from the get go. From then on, it’s a more or less never-ending stream of hits with an amazingly powerful rendition of ‘rush hour’ (just one of a number of highlights from the band’s most recent album) giving way to a heart-stopping ‘you stopped the rain’, a track which is all the more heartfelt as it is played in direct tribute to Cornell. Next up, the band introduce the epic ‘a long history of love’ which the band stretch out way past the eleven-minute mark with Alan’s exquisite soloing taking centre-stage. An emotional song given additional gravitas by the power of Alan’s voice, it sees the audience paying rapt attention only for the band to shake the venue up with the glorious ‘waking up’, a song that manages to superglue itself to the inside of my cranium every time I am exposed to it. A glorious pairing of blues and rock, ‘waking up’ is just a great song and one that I never tire of hearing.
With the crowd loudly showing their enthusiasm, the band pay tribute to one of their greatest influences with a cover of Free’s ‘Heavy load’, next. Alan laments the fact that Free are also on tour (“they’re too expensive!” yells an audience member; “so that’s why you’re here?” Alan quips, “we’re cheap?”) but the version King King offer positively drips with soul and it’s hard to believe that a year ago Alan was suffering with throat issues as he tackles the vocals of Paul Rogers and delivers a performance more than worthy of that great singer. However, the night’s undisputed victory is ‘stranger to love’. An extensive, jazzy, bluesy number it stretches into infinity and, as Alan takes to the front of the stage to play with his guitar turned down to zero, you could hear a pin drop in the utterly silenced auditorium. It’s a sad fact that few artists garner such levels of respect but it’s heartening that King King do, and the performance is absolutely stunning. It simply leaves an encore of ‘let love in’ and the band take their bows leaving an audience that is thoroughly satisfied.
King King are one of those bands that manage to convey a friendly, somewhat informal atmosphere whilst simultaneously demonstrating their instrumental prowess on stage and the result is a show that is both intimate and exhilarating in equal measure. The set list is packed with great tunes and it says much of the quality of King King’s output that their perfectly rendered version of Free’s ‘heavy Load’ slots right in and, in many cases, is eclipsed by the band’s own work. King King remain on tour and, if they pass near you, you owe it to yourself to get out and support live music. 9
Amazing live shots courtesy of Jola Stiles