The King Blues – Relentless Garage, Highbury

By Andy

?I know it sounds like we?re getting a bit emotional up here, but it really is great to be back in London.? Following what the band itself will tell you was a year of turmoil, The King Blues kick off 2011 with a relatively low-key hometown show. Considering the band?s Koko gig in April is well and truly sold-out, the comparatively smaller Garage show is quite the hot ticket. It?s also one of those horrible industry type promotional shows, this one coming under the ?HMV Next Big Thing? banner. What HMV know about up and coming music is anyone?s guess. Still, it?s a line-up worth writing home about.

SHARKS [2.5/5] open up proceedings on the back of a lot of plaudits lately. While it?s easy to see that increased radio time and a tour with The Gaslight Anthem has made the Leamington Spa trio a much tighter prospect, tonight?s performance is just a little bland. Over 30 minutes the band don?t really do anything to accost the ears, coming across as slick and finished but lacking any real ?wow? factor. Basically it looks like work, not fun, up there on stage. Perhaps it?s an off night. Perhaps it?s an early year gig. Whatever the reason, Sharks need to offer more than this to build on that previous promise.

TWIN ATLANTIC [3/5] on the other hand approach the evening with a whole heap of amusement. ?Next Big Thing? Don?t believe it,? quips frontman Sam McTrusty as the Glaswegian quartet pumps out technically edged, incisive alt-rock reminiscent of PT favourites, Failsafe. It?s not nearly the finished product, rough around the edges and a little messy here and there, but it?s delivered in a manner that pricks the ears. Building towards May and the release of new album ?Free?, performances like these will go a long way.


THE KING BLUES [4/5] are heroes around these part. Whilst the punk rock universe squabbles over accusations of poor ethics, selling-out and other absurd labeling, London welcomes the band back with open arms, open hearts and open lungs. From the young fan plucked from the pages of the mainstream media to the crusty old punk at the back, by way of the ska-punkers, everybody stands as one in saluting the recently reshuffled sextet as it gusts through an intriguing 45 minutes.

The majority of the set is made up of material that will feature on upcoming album, ?Punk & Poetry?, an eclectic mix that sees The King Blues tread further away from the old guitar/ukulele template. Opener ?We Are Fucking Angry? is a little less Shikari-esque live than on recording but is still a real piledriver of a tune (and coupled with ?Let?s Hang The Landlord? it makes for one serious assault of an opening). Upcoming single ?Set The World On Fire? continues the trend towards big choruses. ?Sex Education? is the band at its lyrical sharpest. ?I Want You? sounds almost Squirtgun-ish (yes, almost pop-punk), whilst ?The Future Is Not What It Used To Be? is probably the closest song you will here to those ?Under The Fog? days. It?s a real mixed bag.


The remainder of the set is scattered with fan favourites like ?My Boulder?, ?Mr Music Man? and ?I Got Love?, interspersed with the political commentary that makes the band both loved and hated. Singer Itch Fox introduces ?These Streets Are Ours? with the line ?Walk Like An Egyptian? in homage to the recent uprisings, whilst there?s a segue best described by its lyrics: ?Your granddad didn?t vote for fascists, he shot them dead,? in response to the recent multiculturalism rows (?Without multiculturalism there?d be no King Blues,? Fox retorts). If there?s one thing you can?t deny about tonight?s set, it?s that it?s relevant.

Ultimately the band proves to be on fine form, the performance suggesting that 2011 is likely to be a better year, and a year that the band can focus on music. It?s not a performance that will be marked out in the future (better gigs are to come) but is an evening where The King Blues can let off steam as wells as a rare instance where the band can smile. Well, you can?t be fucking angry all the time.


All photographs by Joseph Duncan