It has been a tumultuous thirteen year career for The King Blues. After three well-received albums, and one which faced mixed reviews, the band split in 2012. With a new line-up, but still led by Johnny ‘Itch’ Fox, the band returned in 2015 with new material. As their leading single opened with, “guess who’s back and p***ed off again”, their voice in political music returned.

As a result, this tour had a lot riding on it. After supporting Enter Shikari in February 2016, alongside a few small performances, a full UK tour was necessary for long-term fans. Despite the controversies that saw the band suddenly split beforehand, a strong, albeit small, fanbase seems keen to see the band again.

The show was opened by support slots from Unknown Era and Louise Destras. Unknown Era are a local Nottingham group, who managed to liven the crowd up. This was followed by punk singer Louise Destras, who’s fierce stage presence proved that she is a talent to watch in the near future. Itch then opens the show with an anticipated performance of ‘What If Punk Never Happened’, which in the current political climate felt ideal. A moment that became more poignant layer in the show, when Itch revealed his visit to a Donald Trump protest that same evening. The rest of the band then joins, barely recognisable with a set of new talents.

Nonetheless, this was a strong performance by The King Blues, featuring songs from all of their previous records. The reactions by the fans highlighted the albums which have remained popular amongst them; whilst the crowd was highly excited by tracks from the first three albums as a whole, clearly some issues remained with those from ‘Long Live the Struggle’, which has clearly become synonymous with the band’s split. In spite of this issue, the band played tracks that featured all of their musical styles side-by-side, from ‘Set the World on Fire’, to ‘Out of Luck, to ‘Mr Music Man’. Two new tracks, ‘Heart of a Lion’ and ‘Bullingdon Boys’, were included, which come from their forthcoming album, ‘The Gospel Truth’. These tracks highlighted the move towards an even punkier vibe, which became apparent in the ‘Off with their Heads’ E.P. The high point of the show was a set of songs from Itch alone with a ukelele. This part of the set included fan favourites such as ‘Underneath this Lamppost’, as well as newer track ‘Poems and Songs’. Similarly, an a capella performance of ‘If I had a Coin’ by the entire band reminded the audience of the range of songwriting talents that Itch possesses, slowing the audience right down before a chaotic rendition of ‘Off With Their Heads’ straight afterwards, In a small venue like the Rescue Rooms, these were brilliant ways to embrace its intimate atmosphere.

However, the main disappointment about the set, which may be simply a personal preference, is there were too few tracks played from their debut album, but hearing almost all of ‘Save the World, Get the Girl’ was nothing to begrudge. Also, the lack of original members of the band did make it feel less like a King Blues concert. It almost felt like a solo show for Itch, as the connection to the band’s previous, well-known form is missing. I see this as an issue for some long-term fans, who remember the liquidation of the band, which may explain why the fanbase for the band has gotten smaller.

Overall, this was a show that proved two things. On the one hand, this is a band who’s reunion and return to touring has been well-received by a fraction of short and long-term fans. The excitement in the crowd tonight showed that they are still a well-loved group by those who have continued to support them. Hopefully, as the band continues to re-emerge in its new form, more fans will take notice of them again, but the atmosphere tonight was promising. On the other hand, and most importantly, in a time of political difficulty, the place for The King Blues in the music scene could not be more secure.

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