The Duke And The King
The Fleece, Bristol
Friday October 29th 2010
Review: Lee Edwards
Photography: Martin Tompkins
Video: Alex Crowton
A gentle drizzle washes the streets of Bristol as Alex and I make our way from Temple Mead Station to the newly re-vamped Fleece. We are heading out ahead of photographer Martin to catch the The Duke And The King for their pre-gig soundcheck and sort ourselves out for the interview which we are videoing. Later we’ll be joined by Martin and a capacity audience to see the band play. They were last in Bristol in the Spring at the Thekla where they gave a devastating performance and we proclaimed it was ElectricGhost’s gig of the year. Since then they have produced an amazing second album Long Live the Duke And The King, Simone has has emergency heart treatment and came over a few months ago for a solo tour.
Arriving at the Fleece we are greeted by the band’s tour tour manager Joey. It is the usual bustle of activity that is soundchecking. Bobbie and Simi appear and we get a sense that all is not well in the Duke and King camp. The bereavement mentioned online that cancelled the Glasgow gig turns out to be Bobbie’s dad, also Simone is not well and in pain, but the show will go on. There is a somber mood in the venue. Nowell appears and seems like the other to be friendly but affected by the recent events. Finally Simone appears and he look frankly like he should be in bed and not about to perform in front of a capacity audience. Whilst they work on their soundcheck Alex and I decamp to the dressing room to set up the camera and prepare for the interview. After the interview which will appear on our blogsite (http://www.electricghostmusic.com) and Journal soon we head of to meet up with photographer Martin for a break and food.
Back at the venue the support act is on and the place is full to capacity. It seem an eternity before the band appear. Without the usual jovial banter they kick off with If You Ever Get Famous, Don’t Wake The Scarecrow and The Morning I Get To Hell. Its good to see them live again but they they seem more restrained than usual and pacing themselves, the stage lighting is dark and they seem to merge into the shadows. Simi, who added electric guitar to her instruments, takes the lead vocals on the highly infectious No Easy Way Out and this seems to to be a turning point this is followed by another favourite from the new album Shaky and the audience are engaged and singing along with the band.
Following a moving reading of Suzanne from Bobbie, Nowell is front of stage for Hudson River with a vocal power than never ceases to knock me off my feet. He could easily dominate any lesser band, and it is a testament to the phenomenal musical abilities of each member that they all shine equally and come together with heavenly spine tingling four-part harmonies. Talking of shining the live version of the anthemic slow-burning Shine On You, a favourite of mine from the new album has a new intensity tonight with an acid guitar solo from Bobbie that is incendiary.
Another favourite follows, Gloria, and the emotional intensity is almost unbearable through I’ve One More American Song (Simone solo with just acoustic guitar and harmonica), Have You Seen It and Radio Song. The set finishes with a magical and heartfelt cover of Neil Young’s classic Helpless with the whole audience acting like a choir, many people including the band are close to tears at this point.
Howls of ‘more‘ and foot stamping that rocks the venue eventually brings them back for devastatingly dark and ominous version of Don’t Take That Place Tonight followed by a heartbreaking beautiful version of Union Street; and then they’re gone. This has been an extraordinary evening by any standards with a band battered and bruises by bereavement and illness giving a heroic and transcendental performance. There is no question that The Duke And The King are the most important and best live band on the planet at the moment. They’ve also just become ElectricGhost’s live gig of the year to be shared with their performance earlier this year at The Thekla in Bristol.