Home Gigs Gig Review :King King Christmas Party 2021 – Support: Rebecca Downes – Support Xander and the Peace Pirates – The Engine Shed: Lincoln University:11th December 2021

Gig Review :King King Christmas Party 2021 – Support: Rebecca Downes – Support Xander and the Peace Pirates – The Engine Shed: Lincoln University:11th December 2021

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Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

We all love a party especially around the Christmas period and even more so when you have three great bands on the card. With this in mind, on a Saturday evening, I’ve turned the car North and the wife and I are heading up the A46 for Lincoln, the Engine Shed to be precise. Located in the depths of Lincoln, I rely on the saved location in my Tom Tom from a previous visit in hope that it will take us to the carpark next to the venue.

Happily, it does as when we were heading for Grimsby, I wasn’t sure what was happening.

We arrive as the hardened fans are stood queueing in the cold, being old and infirm we made our way inside, the wife to the bar and me to the gents. Once sorted and a couple of drinks purchased, we sat with some old friends whilst we waited for the venue to re-open.

I say re-open as the VIP’s amongst us had access to the earlier soundcheck and a meet n greet with the band. This was something I later found out was open to the wife and myself when we collected out passes from the box office. We’d been allocated VIP laminates, bugger a missed opportunity. At least we can get into the after-show party which is nice to catch up with friends.

The venue is a decent one, bar at the back, stage opposite, easily a 2k Cap hall with a decent sound and light rig, I’ve been here before, several times.

Getting my photo pass took a few minutes to arrange, the poor girl on the box office didn’t have one to give me, and with the current conditions the Pit Boss wasn’t letting me in without it, and rightly so. All sorted and we get behind the barrier, I’m feeling at home now. Super Roadie, ‘Creeper’ Smith checks I’m all good to go and tells the Pit Boss that I’ve got full stage access, that’s always a nice perk when you know the guys.

First band up at 19:15 is the amazing Xander and the Peace Pirates. What a great choice of a band to start things off. Visually striking and in that, amazing that Keith Xander is such a stunning guitarist having only his left hand. 

Playing a short set the band are on it from the get go, Keith with his leather jacket and scarf tied cowboy hat stands in front of the mic and lets rip with ‘Fire’ with its steady kick drum the slightly distorted guitars jangling over the top in a clear repetitive pattern, Mike Gay on the second guitar slotting on some tasty slide.

With encouraged clapping the crowd quickly join in, we get a rattle of cymbal as the song winds up and then eyes closed Keith shows that having a disability is not a reason to be unable to play an instrument as he rips out a scorching solo. Up next we have ‘We Cry’ a great bluesy intro from Mike Gay leads into this tasteful ballad, this highlights Keith’s great vocals as he warbles his way delicately through this vocal, Mike cuts lose with a tasty solo and Keith reply’s, nice interplay if all to short.

Mikes tasty solo then becomes a repetitive riff for Keith to solo over, clever. ‘Dance with the Devil’, another tasty number, superb song writing and musicianship has been the order of the day so far. Another slow rock ballad that sees Mike on slide again, the crowd love it and cheer for more.

Which, is a good thing as ‘Searching for the light’ with its guitar swell intro and haunting solo, ‘Shape I’m In’ and its gutsy 12 bar rock n roll riff grinds out as Keith and Mike cut loose. Full of interspersed guitar breaks and more excellent Mike Gay slide the song eventually ending with the Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child (slight Return) riff.

The only cover of the set follows and is now a Peace Pirates staple in the set, the formidable Prince classic ‘Purple Rain’ follows. I’ve seen the boys play this and they never disappoint, in fact they kill it, as I look round the crowd are mesmerised as Keith has the guitar to his teeth as he wrings the neck of every bit of solid tone, Mike is stage right smiling along as he knows it’s a great performance.

The final track ‘Dancing in the Light’.  This see’s Mike back on the SG its hard edge cutting through as we dance on the light, slide again from Mike as Keith handles the vocals before winding his black Stratocaster guitar up and rips out another solo, encouraging the crowd to clap which they eagerly do as he continues to riff out playing back n forth with Mike on slide. They build the song to a climactic finish.

There are plenty of shouts for more but sadly, with the running order and time constraints it’s not going to happen. It’s been a great set full of stunning guitar work and subtle vocals, over far to quickly. The band are playing local to me in Feb 2022, I’d made sure I’d secured a couple of tickets before I got home. Get and see them, they’re worth every Penny. With a couple of albums already under their belt ‘11’ and, ’11:11’ there’s plenty to get your teeth into.

Setlist:  1.  Fire:  2.  We Cry:  3.  Dance with the Devil:  4.  Searching for the Light:  5.  Shape I’m In:  6.  Purple Rain:  7.  Dancing in the Light

Up next was the diminutive West Midlands Blue’s powerhouse Rebecca Downes and her band. Again, a band I’ve seen a few times now and have never been disappointed in the live performance. Having played at various Blues Festivals around the country and at previous King King Xmas bashes, Rebecca and the band always go down well.

Opening her set with the steady ‘Take me Higher’, the band are solid, the bass punching through the backline, with a fruity, understated sound, Steve Birkett on Lead guitar throws in backing vocals, his silky voice wrapped in a loose scarf, wearing his trade mark flat cap. ‘Wave Them Goodbye’ follows with its sharp snare drum blast intro, again Birkett shares the vocal duties along with striking out the lead runs.

Rebecca rocks out at the mic, her black telecaster with bright yellow and black animal print pic guard hanging low as she stroke’s along as she sings. The bass is again dancing around the melody as we hear the keys take a quick run up the, er, ‘board’??

Little Bit of Love’ is up next, That FREE classic is given the treatment. A big song for the band to have a go at, and whilst the ‘Kossoff’ attack is missing, it’s a great effort and goes down well with the collected fans who have travelled far and wide for to-nights event. ‘Breathe Out’ has Steve Birkett featuring again on guitar.

The lights have taken on a dark amber colour with the obligatory spots washing around the stage, the ever presence of ‘fog’ catching the light and giving a great show and some stunning capture opportunities. The solo is in safe hands as Steve methodically rips it out on his small bodied Gibson, I think it’s a Blueshawk, no doubt he’ll be polite and correct me at some point, ‘Rock and Roll’ sees Rebecca put down her guitar and gives the vocals a good seeing to on this timeless song from the masters that are Led Zep.

 ‘Sailing (On A Pool of Tears)’ has Rebecca back on guitar, a steady beat supports this ‘Bond-esque themed tune. Hammond organ swirling in the background as the song progresses. Birkett’s guitar is crunching out the riffs as the song builds to a sweet solo, a great bluesy number and then we go into set finisher ‘I Believe’ with its ’We Will Rock You’ style drum intro and slide guitar.

Building to a great musical climax which sees all the instruments taking centre stage, Hammond and slide guitar bouncing off each other as the Bass again ducks and dives its way around the melody, crashing drums and some flashes of fills combine with the vocals as the song finishes in a climax of cheers and calls for more from the crowd. Rebecca is a great favourite and always goes down well. Tonight, being no exception.

Setlist:  1. Take Me Higher:  2.  Wave Them Goodbye:  3.  Little Bit of Love (cover):  4.  Breathe Out:  5.  Rock and Roll (cover):  6.  Sailing (On A Pool of Tears):  7.  I Believe

Time for a quick drink and a catch up with the good lady, A pint of coke and a pint of iced water and I’m back for the headliner and what tonight is all about. Earlier in the evening the VIP crowd listened to a short set which won’t be played again in the evening show. These were: – ‘Lose Control’, ‘Old Love’, ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Violin’.

They were also treated to Gingerbread men and Bakewell tarts whilst stood in the queue. These being made my Superfan and Facebook Official King King Fan Group Admin, Andrea Matkin. Thanks for saving me something, I noticed the empty tins on the way out.

The evening show kicks off with the epic ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’. Complete with dual guitars of the Nimmo bros, Alan firmly in the driving seat as he marches out that now familiar solo, Andy Scott smashing the drums like his life depends on it, then the twinkle and a smile, he’s already in the pocket. Jonny ramps away playing with his organ behind a Christmas wrapping paper clad Hammond. Alan’s brother Stevie, now an integral part of the band stands stage right with an elf tee shirt on under his open shirt alongside Zander on bass duties who is behaving like a naughty elf, pulling faces and sticking his tongue out to the fans.

Fire in My Soul’ from ‘Maverick’ is solid King King doing what they do best. With a solid drum beat and Keyboard driving the sound forward as they do in so many of the songs. The characteristic swirling of the Nord 3, Hammond combo ever present. Alan, clad in his trade mark Kilt and Desert boots nails the subtle solo, the usual faces are pulled through out. Again, from Maverick we have ‘One World’ full of the King King charm.

Waking Up’ is a treat, going back to ‘Reaching for the Light’ album, and we’re back with the old King King vibe of a marching bass line, formally played by Lindsay Coulson, the man behind the Xmas bashes. For this we have backing vocals provided by Zander, Stevie and Jonny on keys, Stevie’s rhythm work on second guitar fills out the overall sound. The band sound complete with his addition.

This gives little brother Alan the room to be the front man he undoubtably is, cracking out a simple solo and then harmonising with his brother, a great new dimension.

The set list reads like a greatest hit’s as we get the usual bangers that can’t be left out like ‘Rush Hour’ and, ’Long History of Love’. My favourite always gets the build-up it deserves, here Alan asks if someone can go ‘Live’ so the boys mum can watch the next number.

Sadly, the Wi-Fi locally is flaky at best and the 4G is likewise. ‘You Stopped the Rain’ is a bouncy tribute to big brother Stevie, as his name is mentioned a huge wolf whistle sounds out, which Alan points out to Stevie, ‘Hey big man you been wolf whistled’ to great hilarity, Yes, it was me! I’m a big Stevie Nimmo fan, have been for years.

Anyways this number goes down a treat, with the crowd singing along as it displays the brotherly love and ­the difficult times Stevie was going through, it’s now a staple in the set. This song alone is well worth a listen too, put the head phones on and listen to a man singing about his brother, stunning!

To change the atmosphere, we get ‘Whatever It Takes to Survive’, a lovely slow blues ballad which shows off Alans vocal control, this is another from the new album Maverick along with ‘I Will Not Fall’ and its repetitive keyboard chops provided by Jonny on is organ behind the wrapping paper, before set closer, Reaching for the Lights, mighty banger, ‘Stranger to Love’ strikes out triumphantly, a darker edge to this firm fan favourite.

Whoops and cheers sound out as Alan croons the opening lines. Marching on the spot as he strokes his guitar and sings, with a key change we get the bell on the ride ringing out as we prepare for the solo, which you can feel is hanging in the air, a soft swirling Hammond organ plays out as Alan strides to the front of the stage to play this slow, quiet passage.

The crowd hush as he plays, eyes closed, lips pursed as he feels every note, the rhythmical kicking of his kilt as he keeps time, his boots stamping quietly as he ‘Ahs’ out loud with emotion. The solo builds in intensity as he repeats the phrase, he re-join’s the band as he continues to lift the roof off the venue, the guitar is now screaming as he wrings its neck, his head shaking as he smiles around the cheering crowd, interplaying with Stevie and Zander as he finally finishes the song off stood singing into the microphone. They say their thanks and briefly leave the stage.

A quick wipe down and they’re back on for a four-song encore. Surprisingly there isn’t a Christmas song amongst the extended set. Up first we get the 80’s classic ‘Power of Love’ by Huey Lewis and the News which is quickly followed by Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’.

This sees Johnny don a boater and a pair of thick rimmed glasses, he remarks he looks more like Mary Poppin’s than Elton and Rebecca Downes has all so re-joined us, to stage right to add to the much-needed vocals for the rest of the set.

This is followed by an epic version of the Clapton Classic ‘Layla’ where Stevie cuts loose and smashes the solo, shared in part with Keith Xander of the Peace Pirates and finally we get the last song off the set, the epic George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ ok it doesn’t challenge Prince’s version but it’s simply brilliant for the fact we see three great guitars entertaining themselves and the audience.

Keith Xander is blistering, stood stage left he pays a solo that is beyond belief, nothing held back, Stevie and Alan watch on smiling like the veritable Cheshire cat at the man’s skill.

They play a phenomenal version of the song. With thanks galore, an extra special thanks goes to former band mate Lindsay Coulson for his superb arrangement of the night which obviously gets great cheers as he stands on the stage acknowledging the crowd.

The band exit stage right, and the crowd start to depart. Arrangements are made to meet again next year. Coats are collected. The VIP’s make their way upstairs to the after-show party, a school disco affair paying rock classics wow that takes me back.

The band filter in and chat to the fans, making their way around the room making time for all. Stevie comes over and the wife and myself get hug from the big man. We stand chatting, while the disco tries to deafen us. Stevie tells me he’s now content being behind his wee brother. His first time ever as a second guitar and he loves it. 

Some fans where worried about it becoming the Nimmo Brothers band but he assures me that, that will never happen, he wont even play any of his own songs. Its Alans band, Its King King, to do anything else would be an insult to the fans. I get that and I’m thankful for it too.

After a chat to a few more friends and a hug from Jonny, we set off for home which is only 55 minutes away. What a great night, three stunning bands surrounded by great friends!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Setlist:  1. (She Don’t) Gimme No Love:  2. Fire in My Soul:  3. One World:  4. Waking Up:  5. Rush Hour:  6. Long History of Love:  7. You Stopped the Rain:  8. Whatever It Takes:  9. I Will Not Fall:  10. Stranger to Love

Encore:  Power of Love, (Huey Lewis and the News cover):  I’m Still Standing, (Elton John Cover):  Layla, (Eric Clapton cover):  While My Guitar Gently Weeps, (George Harrison cover)

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