Sometimes you’re driving along and you see something in the distance and you think to yourself “Man, that looks huge!” only to get close and realize that the potential mountain was just a proverbial molehill. And other times as the intervening miles decrease, you realize that you might have had no idea just how big, not just a mountain, but a range of peaks and valleys with all sorts of crags and paths to explore was actually looming ahead.
I saw Marcus King coming from off in the distance after hearing some post-CMJ buzz. I checked out his debut album and was plenty impressed with his skills and maturity, but it wasn’t until The Marcus King Band was right in front of me last night at Stage 2 of Rockwood Music Hall that I saw the extent of what is coming.
Let’s get the inevitable out of the way: there is no avoiding comparisons. Warren Haynes, of course. King’s band is firmly inside The Allmans radius, and his guitar playing often has that sharp-toothed tone that’s strongly reminiscent of the Gov’t Mule frontman. But watching King front a band that included bass, drums and organ, naturally, and also a two-man sax-and-brass horn section, I was struck at how The Marcus King Band is a compromise between the raw jazz-meets-Southern-rock energy of the original Derek Trucks Band and the more polished soul-blues-groove of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Comparisons aside, King is his own man, and despite his youth, make no mistake about it, his guitar playing, singing and band leadership are a Hungry Man-sized meal that’s tough to fully swallow in one sitting.
Last night’s show was impressive for the music first and foremost. King led his band through battle-tested material off the last album and launched into dozens of exploratory jams that, sure, featured plenty of fiery guitar solos, but also a healthy portion of full-band raging that had the packed-house whooping and dancing from start to finish. I was also impressed with King’s presence: not for nothing, the guy was plenty likable in this nice-to-meet-you, first time gig for many in the room. There were several moments where, a few steps into a solo, he would, in a burst of not-too-showy showmanship yowl something like “How you doing New York City!?” before shifting gears and thrilling the crowd with some death-defying solo.
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