Small Stages Not Much Longer: The Marcus King Band Lights Up Nectars


via Glide Magazine

Since the release of its eponymous sophomore album last autumn, The Marcus King Band has generated a groundswell of recognition for itself with almost constant roadwork. The group’s appearance at Nectar’s in Burlington on January 26th suggested the precocious group will be headlining shows regularly before too long.

It was poetic justice of sorts that a line formed down the block from the doors of the storied venue when the doors did not open at the prescribed time. But the resulting restlessness of the crowd translated directly to the rustling expectations inside the club so that, after even more delay, The Marcus King Band were welcomed like conquering heroes.

The audience was certainly ready to be bowled over and they slowly surely were during the course of a virtually uninterrupted ninety minutes unified by the likes of “Devil’ Land.” MKB proved they are all they’ve been cracked up to be, as one wag noted, their name now spreading like the proverbial wildfire via social media, word of mouth and internal publicity including the band’s fanbase. It’d be too easy to pigeonhole this group as Southern rockers despite the fact that, for lovers of Dixie Rock, they do hearken to virtually every great group in the genre, including the Allmans, Marshall Tucker and Skynyrd.

But The Marcus King Band transcends its influences. They’ve internally processed their roots with an authentic nod to the blues, in the form of a dramatically emphatic version of B. B. King’s “Sweet Little Angel,” residing comfortably beside a crafty interpolation of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” within their own “Plant Your Corn Early.” Like the late guitarist of the latter band, Terry Kath, Marcus too is a monster on electric guitar and his singing this night proved only a little less striking.

And then there’s the of Philly soul wafting through the horn parts on “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With That” late in the set, this following crescendo after another softly majestic crescendo linked the set. This single, unified block of songs evolved in such a way that MKB touched every base, including band intros at the end; consummately professional but never slick, King and his group are polished to be sure, but hardly so much the edge is gone from the music they make. Quite the contrary.

Horn solos by both Dean Mitchell on sax and Justin Johnson on trumpet furthered the sextet’s momentum as much as King’s rapid-fire exchange with drummer Jack Ryan near the end. And that came after his rhythm guitar cushioned the trumpet and sax as they comped along, reaffirming the musicianly approach of this entire ensemble. When keyboardist Matt Jennings got his chance to step out on electric piano, after spending much of the evening filling in spaces via his organ, he was as tasteful as he was propulsive in his playing.

Which might well describe the guitar work of the leader, who showcased his skills, smartly enough, at the beginning and near the end of the show as an effective means of rousing the crowd to acts of noisy guitar hero worship. There was a continuous intensity to the performance of The Marcus King Band at Nectar’s, but the ebb and flow from stark moments such as the new song performed solo by the leader, to the dense likes of the closing number rendered the experience constantly surprising and completely satisfying.

Photos courtesy of Ross Mickel/Bootleggers Beware Photography