Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
With doors set for 7:30, no support band, and KSW due on stage at 8pm tonight’s show at the Parr Hall, Warrington. With the covid years behind us and tonight’s show, the first in a short run of 6 consecutive nights, KWS has finally brought his “Trouble Is..25” Anniversary tour to the U.K.
Despite a reshuffle of venues, due to a rescheduling of the tour, tonight see’s the Parr Hall almost sold out, on a school night too, although I think a lot of the fans in tonight, finished school in the last century.
Setting the night off royally, the crowd erupt as the band walk on stage and plug in. Kicking off we have the appropriately named ‘Trouble Is..’ this instrumental originally features Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band Double Trouble on the original 1997 album.
The double stops and fat blues sound are there from the get go, the back beat is hard and deliberate as Kenny’s supple wrist flies through a scorching solo, very reminiscent of his inspiration, SRV. He’s taken the style and sound and from an early age has made it his own.
The picking technique is fluid as his pic flies over the strings delivering a sonic maelstrom of crunching fruity sound. The venue is quiet, the crowd are hanging onto each string being plucked. Vocalist, Noah is stood, beaming, a sunburst Strat’ hanging from his neck, for all the world looking like a young Ace Frehley throughout the song.
The crowd erupt as we go straight into ‘Somehow, Somewhere, Someway’. And again, the trademark chops are there in this slower number. The finger slides down the guitar neck sending shivers as they punctuate fiery stabs of sonic genius. Noah’s voice is smooth, the delivery, through a smile as wide as the stage showing that, only two songs in, he is in a good place.
Stepping back Kenny moves forward and starts throwing lick after lick on his signature Strat. The walking riff is ever present as he gets his fingers down in the dirty end with all the precision of a highly trained surgeon, Kenny is self-taught and doesn’t read music, this is about feel, and he has the ‘feels’ by the bucket full.
Next up is one of three covers from the album. The Peoples Poet, Bob Dylan has been covered by just about everyone, on the album ‘Everything Is Broken’ is given the KWS treatment. It’s a tune that’s featured several times in the set over the years. The scorching lead solo has Kenny pulling strings and shapes as Noah waits to pick up the lyric after the pyrotechnics have finished.
‘Chase The Rainbow’ continues the onslaught. More trademark sweeps start off before we go into the classic sonic breakdown which again sees Kenny, eyes closed slamming thick notes around the venue, his flailing hand, at times is held high above is head, as his face, contorted conveys the emotion being channelled through his fingertips. With Noah singing “chase the rainbow blind” to finish off the song, the Parr Hall erupts once more.
Kenny takes a few minutes before going into the next song, ‘I Found Love (When I Found You)’. He thanks the crowd for coming out to the first night of the tour. Say’s he’s not played the album in its entirety before the tour so it’s a first for him and the band. The album now 25yrs old, is still as relevant today as it was then. The track line-up is swapped around to make for a better playing experience but it has lost noting in doing so. He mentions that some tracks are true to the original recording where as some are extended, to which the crowd cheer and Kenny smiles back.
He tells us that once the album is played the band are going to walk off and then come back on after a whole load of ‘whooping’ and a hollerin’, and play another set of songs prepared especially, from the rest of the back catalogue.
He goes on to add that he likes to give an introduction to this particular song, ‘I Found Love (When I Found You)’, as it taught him about writing and recording music and its impact on fans personal lives. Being a sucker for love songs, he goes on to say that since the song went out, there is never a week goes by when he doesn’t have an e-mail or play a show requesting that song, as it was played as their wedding song, at which point we get a shout out from the balcony to say it was there’s to, so Kenny dedicates it to them.
It starts with a quiet stage and then a simple hi hat crash from the ‘Freight Train’ and Joe Krown joins in on keys and plays the opening lines before the soft voice laments the story to a respectfully quiet Parr Hall. The steady walking drumbeat and repeated piano riff waltz’s the tune onwards. Kevin McCormick on bass is rocking back and forth as he locks in tight with Sam Bryant on the kit. The clean solo is a contrast to the searing licks played previously. It’s understandable why this has become a fan favourite wedding song.
The second cover on the original album is up next. Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Nothing to Do with Love’ again, it gets a good shake and is given a fistful of the Louisiana axeman’s trademark licks. The Wah-Wah pedal intro lick makes this one sound more Hendrix than anything from the Welsh valleys, as Noah tells the crowd the song title over the barrage being released from Kenny’s fingers.
Tasty licks flash out between Noah’s vocal deliveries, the song builds until Kenny lets fly with a fat crunchy solo that soars like an eagle before Noah picks up the vocals again. Joe Krown’s Hammond is swirling away complementing this dynamic wall of sound. The runs on the guitar neck make this a different beast to the original, a Strat’s neck pick up ‘quack’ sounds outrageous in the right hands as a stampede is released from Kenny’s signature Strat during the outro breakdown.
A triplet shuffle ‘ala’ SRV has ‘Kings Highway’ getting people busy dad dancing at the back. Krown’s ivories are tickled mightily, as he fills in the gaps, smiling away at Kenny as he lets rip a sweet lick as this one continues to bounce along like a new born lamb. ‘True Lies’ picks up where ‘Kings’ left off. The trademark riff repeats as Noah sings over the top of the back beat which is steady and thundering, as Krown’s the Hammond swirls around your legs and the guitar barks and tries to nip you in the nether regions.
It’s hard to imagine if you weren’t there but this album is over 25yrs old. There are a few riffs and licks that have been lifted and used by younger guitarists today such is the impact this album has had. This one being 5yrs older than Joe Bonamassa’s debut album, in fact Kenny had ‘Live On’, his third album out before Joe had cut his first in 2002.
The shuffle feel continues with ‘(Long) Gone’ another 5 ½minute blues masterpiece full of swirling Hammond that compliments the scorching guitar sound. The epic instrumental section gets the crowd ready for the final cover on the album, the mighty ‘I Don’t Live Today’ by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was released on their debut album, ‘Are You Experienced’, a tune that was dedicated to the American-Indian and other minority depression groups due to his American Indian roots.
The drums are concussive as Kenny is channelling the late JH. Sonic screams and cries emanate from his fingers as the familiar tune gets a ripped a new one. It finishes to an ovation to his excellence; he thanks the crowd then introduces the next song.
He tells the room that when it was released it set the record for the most consecutive days at number one, pretty good for a 19yr old. 20 years later Five Finger Death punch recorded it with Brian May and Kenny on guitar. This was another song that has filled his inbox with stories with how the song has helped them through really bad times in their lives. The power of music to heal is well documented. He asks for the crowd to sing along to ‘Blue on Black’ if they know the words.
This has become the signature song for KWS, a ballad tinged with a country vibe and is respectfully sang along to by the somewhat partisan crowd in the venue. The crunch of the distorted guitar is compressed to hell and sounds marvellous, its devilish tone, sounding like a demon crying in agony, and howls as it is exorcised by the hand of a high priest. The congregation join in at the appropriate moment. Another ovation and cheering greets the finish of this timeless classic.
The last song of the set ‘Slow Ride’ kicks off with a distorted, phased guitar that has hints of Voodoo Child mixed in. The snare slams are accented, driving the song forward as the scooped guitar soars before being let loose and racing off into the night. Noah’s vocal, is on point as he beams along, at times standing along-side or behind Kenny as he’s letting fly a scorching solo lick.
There’s plenty of Hammer on’s and pull offs to keep the most closeted bed room noodler happy. The song finishes triumphantly and the band walk off as promised. The cheers and cries lift the roof as the band return quickly. The band are introduced as Joe Krown on Keys, Kevin McCormick on Bass, Sam ‘the Freight Train’ Bryant. Noah Hunt gets a special mention as he’s also celebrating 25yrs being lead vocalist with KWS.
The second half of the show starts off with the thrusting banger that is ‘Woman Like You’. The familiar guitar has Noah “Oo” “Oo”-ing along as the song comes to an end, he holds the microphone, by the stand, out over the crowd.
The last song and the next one ‘I Want You’ are from the latest album ‘Traveler’ released in 2019. The steady drum beat and count in has Kenny singing this one. His voice is fine and it’s great to finally hear him sing. The steady blues is walking along, almost stumbling at times as it crashes around the room.
Neck pick up solo’s always go down well, fat and seemingly dripping in warm molasses’s, this one is no different, as you slowly wade through the river of treacle being created by this blues guitar maestro. Kenny then encourages Joe to get the Hammond swirling whilst he casually strums along. The room is filled with the dynamic playing from Joes corner until Kenny lets fly an SRV type lick to take back control of the room.
The notes fly from his fingers as, eyes closed he sucks in air through his nose whilst seemingly tip toes and firing out notes faster than a colt 45.
Bringing this one down from the ceiling takes a minute or two but the crowd love it as the band then go into ‘Diamonds & Gold’ from 2017’s ‘Lay It on Down’. Another punchy number that bounces along, it has the crowd light in their seats once again.
There is a small collection behind the sound board enjoying the freedom to move around but are stood mesmerised at the guitar man in front of them. Kenny has sat down with Noah as Kevin McCormick takes over the melody on his bass. Its distorted and nasty sounding. The drums crash around him as he rocks out, head bobbin’ as he grooves with Bryant and Krown. Kenny and Noah are beaming along watching what’s happening in front of them. Joe Krown picks up the baton and once again slams his fingers across the ivories until Kenny joins in and rips the stage apart with a screaming attack of guitar acrobatics. The double stop finish has the crowd on their feet again.
My stand out song from the night outside of the Anniversary album is the mighty ‘Heat of the Sun’ from 2011’s ‘How I Go’ the opening lick sends shivers every time I hear it. Noah’s voice is superb as he steadily laments this stunning lyric. The ghostly cries from the fingers of Kenny have the crowd silent as he plays. Again, it’s another song that you can feel is in a lot of younger tunes by other bands.
In fact, I think of KWS when I hear Alan Nimmo drop a lick or two, and then commands silence by dropping the volume off during one of his solo’s. Kenny has dropped his volume level for part of this one too. His subtle guitar work builds as the song progresses, Noah has left the stage leaving the band to groove, the crowd acknowledge the wizardry happening before them with cheers and shouts of encouragement as Kenny, sat on a wedge continues to rip the heat ‘out’ of the sun.
A stunning tune, which leads us to the last one of the night. According to the set list, it’s a choice of ‘Same Same Same’ from 1995’s Ledbetter Heights, the debut album or a B.B. King cover. The first few notes are let loose and its obvious we are in for a treat with the B.B. cover, ‘You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now’. Noah croons Kings lyric while Kenny is running around B.B.’s box squeezing out the notes in his own raucous style. Krown takes over on the piano and gives Kenny a break, although you can hear the blues oozing from his guitar as he stands strumming, smiling away from behind his blonde bangs. Kenny asks “if we like the blues to say ‘yeah’” the crowd lift the roof off to which Kenny replies “I believe ya, I ain’t got no need to ask again”. He again thanks everyone for coming out again and then gets back down to the task in hand. More sonic skulduggery emanates from the stage as the song continues to build to a stunning finale.
KWS mentions the band as the crowd are on their feet cheering and a hollerin’ once more as the song finishes. The band line up and salute the fans before finally leaving the stage.
What a night, a 6hour round trip to witness a genius deliver a 2hour master class of explosive blues is money and time well spent. I’ve grabbed me a Tour Tee, something I’m now a bit more select about due to the crazy prices they are forced to charge due to venue commissions etc. Well worth putting something back in the pot for a performance like that.
Driving home I’m thinking about how to get to another show, it was that good.
With only 5 more dates to choose from you’d better be quick. KWS has a solid fan base and tickets are as rare as hens teeth.
Wed 19th April EDINBURGH QUEENS HALL
Thu 20th April NEWCASTLE TYNE THEATRE
Fri 21st April HOLMFIRTH PICTUREDROME
Sat 22nd April BEXHILLDE LA WARR PAVILION
Sun 23rd April LONDON O2 SHEPHERDS BUSH EMPIRE
I hope to see you at another venue soon, yes, he really is that good!