King Blues – live review
Manchester Academy 2
April 2nd 2011
The room is packed and the atmosphere is electric. It feels like everyone is dancing as the band play anthem after anthem, casually switching from one style to another in a celebration of radical politics and the soul power celebration of community music. The King Blues are a sonic barricade against the worst government in the UK for decades and also a brilliant party band.
If you want a snapshot of the UK right now, here it is.
A multi racial, multi rhythmic band who sing brilliant, heart warming, thrilling songs that match the mood of the times. A mood that has spilled over into demos and an open defiance of the coalition and their damned cuts and a mood that is the sound of this summer.
Operating under the punk rock flag, King Blues have taken the form and stretched it in several different directions at once. There are no boundaries here, no mere three chord thrash. King Blues have taken the adventure of punk and it’s energy and its sandpaper vocals and gone on a fine trip of their own. The only signposts I can spot are maybe a touch of Rancid’s punk hip hop spin off band the Transplants, the adventure and the mashing up of black and white culture of the mid period Clash of London’s Calling/Sandinista, the occasional flash of early hardcore energy (here’s yet another band who took the template of Minor Threat), the bounce of ska, English folk and busking blues and the deep groove of protest reggae and a flavour of hip hop.
Somehow King Blues make this sound very, very English. Not the long lost mythical England of Britpop and it’s love of sixties lore but the now sound when you wander through the city and listen to the car stereos or the music pouring out of flats- a mish mash of electronic culture.
Frontman Itch is a charismatic figure. Like a new generation Joe Strummer- he has the passion and humanity of the punk rock warlord but is on hos own musical quest. Itch, the core of the band, along with guitarist and onstage human dynamo ,Jamie Jazz, his heart on sleeve vocals and impassioned political asides are suddenly speaking to a generation. When the band started five years ago they were a voice in the wilderness, now with their new album, Punk And Poetry’ due out soon they find themselves at the vanguard of a new way of thinking and soundtracking the political fervour that is on the streets and on the internet as a generation finally wakes up.
With a re-jigged line up King Blue have come come back fiercer and more focussed, new bass player Kate Marsh is all flailing dreadlocks and nimble bass work providing the deep dubs for the audience to skank to. This mixture of dub and hardcore is so potent that whole huge scene has been playing it in the Uk for years- the King Blues have marshalled it into a powerful sound that is hurtling towards the crossover- a crossover that will be sped up by their triumphant round of summer festivals.
King Blues have plenty of anthems like ”ËLet’s Hang the Landlord’ whilst ‘Headbutt’ is a crowd singalong favourite whilst current single We Are Fucking Angry is one of several songs to turn the packed sold out venue into a mass joyous moshpit. When Itch returns for the first encore and does a poetic rendition of ”ËFive Bottles of Shampoo’ he has the audience in the palm of his hand.
King Blues are fighting back. But theirs is not a rampant nihilism, they are offering love, hope and community in the face of the negative bullshit talk of the big society coming from the out of their depth and mean spirited coalition government.
The next time the Daily Mail moan about the ”Ëyouth of today’ drag the mean spirited bastards down to a King Blues gig and let their stone hearts melt to this powerful and uplifting and very human message from a very human band.