A royal performance: The Duke & The King, Manchester Ruby Loungeby Ed Devlin. Published Thu 26 Nov 2009 20:00
The Duke & The King
video by ChucksmithNYC again!
Duke & The King, Manchester Ruby Lounge, November 21, 2009
“We’re all in Manchester, and we’re all united,” says Simone Felice in an attempt to convey a sense of bonhomie between the band and their audience.
As an American he can be forgiven for not showing the correct football etiquette as half the room boo his genuine, if corny, attempt at spreading the love.
Thankfully The Duke & The King’s set provokes a more positive reaction, with everyone in attendance in the palm of their hands from the opening chords of ‘If You Ever Get Famous’ – also the first song of their haunting, and beautiful, debut album ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay.’
It’s followed quickly by new single ‘The Morning I Get To Hell’, and it’s clear that as good as the album is, The Duke & The King live is an altogether more enthralling experience; spiritual even.
A wonderful mix of soul, country and West Coast folk, Smokey Robinson dueting with James Taylor, Sly & the Family Stone teaming up with Simon & Garfunkel. Whatever it is, it’s special, it’s liquid music.
The band performs as a quartet live, and all four members have sensational voices with a sensational variety. They swap instruments giving the night a very intimate feeling, as if any member of the crowd could get up there and join in at any time.
Felice (The Duke) takes lead duties on most songs and has a raw sadness about him, as well as a warmth that he shares with everyone in the venue. This is evident on ‘Don’t Wake The Scarecrow’, from The Felice Brothers’ second album, a beautiful number that is lyrically stunning. And on ‘Union Street’, a song that wistfully reflects on getting back to a more innocent time, and one of the night’s many highlights, there is a collective lump in the audience’s throat. “As long as we’ve got rock and roll, everything will be alright,” sings Felice. Amen, brother.
Robert ‘Chicken’ Burke (The King) showcases his sweeter, sun-kissed vocals on ‘Suzanne’, as well as a versatility throughout the night, as he jumps from guitar to bass to drums with ease.
But it is the big man wearing the Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt that surprises the most. Nowell Haskins (The Deacon) plays the drums and supplies soft backing vocals until ‘Lose My Self’ when a volcanic eruption seems to happen. As he opens his mouth a voice like molten lava comes flowing from his incredible pipes. This understatement sums up The Duke & The King; when they are able to use a singer of this talent so sparingly, and brilliantly, it is evident that we’re in the presence of something very special.
Simi Stone, the fourth member, is as important to the whole as the three main players, her violin playing more than a little reminiscent of Scarlet Rivera on Bob Dylan’s Desire.
All this comes together, and reaches a climax, for a breathtaking rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’. After intense, and pleading, screams from the audience the band appears for a moving encore of ‘One More American Song’, the final track on their album.
If tonight is just an intimate, quiet gig it’s frightening to think what this band would sound like in full flow. Lyrically as good as anything released in the last few years, and musically joyous and full of pathos at the same time. Long live The Duke & The King.
New single ‘The Morning I Get To Hell’ released 14th December