It may possibly be more a comment on the all-pervasive nature of social media than anything else, but Steve Hill reckons he owes his slot here tonight to Facebook. Playing “Dangerous” his breakthrough track, he says: “It went viral after Guitar World published it, man, it’s had 1.3 million views on Facebook.” He then adds: “You can find me on all the usual social channels, and sometimes Tinder.” The last bit proves that there’s some things man can’t do alone. But crikey, the Ontario native has a good go with everything else. The One-Man Blues Rock Band is in rare form here. Playing the drums with his feet, the cymbals with a weird thing on his guitar that probably has a name, and all the while dishing out big, thick primal riffs that are as dangerous puns intended – as anything that blues has ever offered. “Rhythm All Over” – his near mission statement – kicks off a 45 minutes that are as thrilling as you hoped if you knew his songs, or will convince that he’s very special if you didn’t. “Damned” is brilliant, likewise, “The Ballad Of Johnny Wabo” where the line “I couldn’t afford no band” sums the whole thing up perfectly, and “Emily” is catchier than the flu. To top the lot off Hill ends with “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and captures some unhinged spirit that makes even that his, and there’s a bar or two of Led Zep after – this is the Black Country after all. Steve Hill is better than good. He’s something more like a force of nature. Resistance at this point is futile. In a year everyone will claim they were on board all along, so you might as well be now.
So many bands come out to AC/DC that it almost seems like Angus and the lads have a contract to supply the whole of rock n roll. That said, when “Highway To Hell” ushers King King out it seems to fit. Alan Nimmo, all smiles, sings and pumps his fist in the air as Bon Scott gets to the chorus, and as they follow it up here with the first single from last year’s wonderful “Exile And Grace” “(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’” you can see why: Alan always wanted to be in a rock band.
“…Grace” took the band into the Bad Company-meets-Free area that with hindsight they were always headed into, and there even seems to be a harder edge to some of the older material too. “You Stopped The Rain” never had quite this much grit before.
“Broken” another of the “Exile…” ones they play broods and builds as it takes stock of the modern world, while “Long Time Running” – the last of the newer trio – wouldn’t be out-of-place on a Thunder record.
In between, there’s a lot of what we can now, surely, call King King classics. “Long History Of Love”, which acts as a vehicle to introduce Jonny Dyke on organ. He had big shoes to fill in Bob Fridzema but he’s done it brilliantly, growing even since the shows, back at the start of the year. “Lose Control” is glorious and “Rush Hour” has, almost from nowhere, become a de facto arena rock anthem in the last year or two.
The gig ends, as King King Shows always do. With “Stranger To Love” allowing Nimmo to show he’s probably the best blues rock guitar player in the UK, but also the band to step up and join him. Lyndsay Coulson and drummer Wayne Proctor are as good as any rhythm section you can name. Then what is essentially their signature tune. “Let Love In” ends in a singalong and, just for a few minutes, the world is a better place. That, you sense, is kind of the point.
Indeed, you can analyse this music till the fat lady sings, but sometimes it’s as simple as this: King King are a wonderful band – and one who, actually always seem to reserve their best for this venue (and believe me, I’ve seen them in lots of places) – and Steve Hill was an incredible support. It made for, probably the gig of 2018 so far.