It’s been two years since The Marcus King Band last played London and this time they’re promoting King’s solo release ‘El Dorado’. Produced by Dan Auerbach, it represents a change in direction from earlier releases, being predominantly psychedelic soul with only an occasional nod to the blues/Americana that he’s best known for. Tonight the crowd is mixed, but it’s primarily a younger audience. It’s clear that his cross-over appeal is growing with only a handful of the usual Radio 2 type blues fans in attendance, squinting and shielding their eyes from the ever present light show.
“We’re going to give everything we’ve got to give. We’re not holding back,” proclaims Marcus King to the audience at the sold out Electric Ballroom in London’s Camden Town. He kicks off with a blistering rock solo, before launching into the soulful ‘Turn It Up’ from his latest release. In comparison to the opening explosion the slide solo is tasteful which is how you’d best describe his playing, never overly garish or pushing it to the needless extreme.
Complementing the usual guitar/bass/drums are a keyboardist and a small two piece horn section. There’s a couple of new faces in the band on this tour, but apart from some poorly mixed backing vocals they are tight and expressive. ‘Where I’m Headed’ from ‘Carolina Confessions’ is the best example of this, with each member given the space to shine. More so than the reality of the stage set-up where the horns are hidden away at the back.
Gone is the shy, shoe gazing King of the past and tonight Marcus is showing his funky side with a set largely drawn from ‘El Dorado’. There’s more than enough time to throw in a few well chosen covers, including ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ and a blues trilogy kicking off with Son House’s acapella song ‘Grinning In Your Face’. With his husky South Carolina drawl at the forefront, King is quickly becoming a force in this department too, and with his newly found confidence is happy to entice the audience into some crowd participation.
As with all good musicians King is adept at making each song his own and uses them as a vehicle for his guitar virtuosity. There may have been some beard stroking by the hipsters during the solos but it’s what people pay their money for. He is at the top of his game and you wonder how much further he can go? Admittedly the latter part of the show did drag on a little but was saved with the only encore ‘The Well’, another track from his his latest album, but already sounding like a classic. Unfortunately, the 11pm curfew meant there was no time for the inclusion of one of his finest songs, ‘Goodbye Carolina’, although you’d have to hope that its concluding line, “I’ll be seeing you”, means it wont’t be too long before he’s back in the UK.