KING’S X @ BRISTOL BIERKELLER, 12/6/2017
JE-RRY, JE-RRY, JE-RRY, JE-RRY…
Before a note is even struck, a chant goes out to the drummer. Jerry Gaskill points to his heart and checks that’s what everyone meant, thanks the crowd for asking and gives the OK that yes, he’s healthy now – and with that, we are ON: Groove Machine and The World Around Me. The applause after those two tracks is so encore-rapturous that you’d swear it was the last track of the last gig of a stadium sellout tour, not the start of a small gig in a small room. There’s a tidal wave of UK love pushing forth and it’s Pinnick Tabor Gaskill getting swamped
because fuuuuuuuck!!!! It’s King’s X, in person, RIGHT THERE just a few feet away. Why the exaltation? Pure magic in a three-piece, as any fan with their own tale will tell you. In my record collection, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska sits between the Badlands debut and Testament’s Practice What You Preach… class of 1989. At some point that year, the 15/16-year-old me bought Badlands, King’s X and Testament – in that order – with Out of the Silent Planet very much not far behind, so Nebraska ’89 is where the path to the Bierkeller started: 28 years of King’s X and now, finally, a live X-perience. No wonder we’ve got the feelgood jitters, this is a borderline mythical event. Three hours earlier, doing a non-native’s scope for the gig’s location, The World Around Me snuck out from behind closed ‘keller doors.
Soundcheck. OMG. Dug Pinnick, Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill are IN there.
But because I didn’t see them, I still didn’t know for sure if they were real.
Back to the gig, they look real enough, but it’s only when they don’t disappear in smoke after those first two songs that the convincing is complete. Pillow, Flies and Blue Skies, A Box, Black Flag, Lost in Germany, Cigarettes, Pray and a hard-rocking Looking for Love are among the King’s X/Dogman/Ear Candy-heavy setlist, with Vegetable‘s taut funk shapes stretching to a long-form Moonlight jam. Dug opts out of some choruses because he’s too old and can’t sing that high anymore (his words, not mine), handing vocal duties to the punters making up the Unofficial Bierkeller King’s X Choir, but he’s still got it. Just not going for the young Doug’s gospel gymnastics of the early days.
Two-thirds of the way through and a minor fret flashes by: we’ve had nothing from the first three albums. Should we be worried? Are they now the band’s Stairway?
No. Righteous Gretchen double-up Summerland and Over My Head swell the joint, while KXprog stopstarter We Were Born to be Loved is the only track from Faith, Hope, Love – didn’t see that one coming, would have bet on It’s Love – and it’s unexpectedness turns it into a real highlight with an even more prolonged false-ender than on the record.
The encore? Dogman – beyond words, obvs – and Goldilox, which is part Dug-crowd a cappella, part full-band. Sweet. And Ty Tabor gets a last-minute mention because that guy was fucking flawless throughout, a real master. The solos in Flies and Blue Skies and Cigarettes were all-time Gig Moments.
So, it is done – King’s X have been seen and I make no apologies for the bias in this review, it’s been a long time coming. Heavy soul with free-flowing uplift, just like the records, and needed now more than ever. Get there if you can, keep spreading the word.
Little bit more Pinnick here, after Radiohead