Review: King King/The Damn Truth – Cardiff Y Plas

After a two-month hiatus over Christmas, the first gig of 2022 finally arrived with the chance to see King King and The Damn Truth tread the boards of Y Plas in Cardiff. Normally that would mean a leisurely 150-mile drive before a burger and a pint in the student union but British weather being what it is, instead I found myself battling through the 80mph winds of storm Eric, or Fred (or maybe even Gary! After a week or storms it became hard to tell!) and feeling a little as if I was going to land in Kansas rather than Cardiff. I finally arrived, weighed myself down with camera gear to keep myself on the ground, and wandered into the venue just as doors opened.

The Damn Truth, King KingKicking off the evening were Canadian foursome The Damn Truth. Now, I should say that when I first decided to cover the gig, the headliner was the draw as I had not even heard of these guys. I then went off and “did my research” and was more than a little impressed by their sound and style, so was full of anticipation to see what they bought to their live show. The answer? So much!

Visually, think a hippy vibe from guitarist Tom Shemer and bassist PY Letellier flanking the more soberly dressed vocalist and rhythm guitarist Lee-La Baum. What the lady lacks in colourful couture she more than makes up for in stage presence and vocal power though and the many references to Janis Joplin in reviews are bang on. This is a singer that pours her soul out through her delivery and has you savoring every note and phrase. Behind them, drummer Dave Traina somehow manages to look way too cool whilst also showing some powerful and skilled stickwork and even a mini drum solo.

The Damn Truth, King KingFew things excite more than a band that is both musically fascinating and visually beguiling and The Damn Truth ticks both boxes. Songs such as opener “This is Who We Are Now” and “Only Love” somehow sound as if they have been around since the 60s, yet also fresh as a daisy and the interplay between band members means that there is always something going on. At one point Baum joins Traina in battering out a rhythm on the drum kit, only using maracas instead of sticks and band members are constantly mobile around the stage. Many of the rhythms conjure up a seductive beat and the vibe of “free love” is amplified when Baum and Shemer almost touch lips around the microphone at one point. Looking around, more than one couple were finding that the music carried a certain “energy” and were, shall we say, enjoying each other’s company…

The reaction from the crowd confirmed that I was far from alone in my appreciation and certainly raised the temperature ready for the headliner’s appearance.

King King“Highway to Hell” blasts out of the PA after a very short break and King King take to the stage with beaming grins that clearly show their pleasure at being back on stage again. From the first few notes, it is clear that the addition of Stevie Nimmo to the lineup has added maturity and depth to the sound, both instrumentally and vocally, where the harmonics at times are sublime. “(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin” kicks things off in fine style and as the band flies through “Fire in My Soul” and “One World”, Alan Nimmo – the maestro in a kilt – wrings out some gloriously understated but perfectly judged solos to balance off against his delicious raw vocals.

King KingAfter “Waking Up” things really start to ignite with “Rush Hour”, a real crowd pleaser before one of the highlights of the set for me; “Long History of Love”. Showcasing the depth of musical ability in the ranks of King King, the keyboards of Jonny Dyke on this song were simply sublime and the synergy with Nimmo’s vocals and solo spine chilling. Watching the band on stage is an exercise in musical understanding. A tiny nod resulting in the entire band reprising a theme one more time, slowing down a rhythm, or changing key as if they are somehow connected on another plane. “You Stopped the Rain” was another set highlight. Throughout the set, Stevie Nimmo adds a harmonic twin guitar (particularly on “Whatever It Takes To Survive”) as the set continues and even takes a solo of this own that rivals that of his brother. Underpinning everything in an unobtrusive way is the rhythm section of Zander Greenshields and Andrew Scott, allowing the fireworks to erupt whenever appropriate.

Song after beautifully delivered song take us through to “I Will Not Fall” and one of the best solos of the night before the set comes to an end. To resume for the encore Alan, Stevie and Jonny take to the stage alone and Alan introduces “When My Winter Comes”. Now maybe it was just me being of a similar age, but this song hit me right in the feels. Beautifully delivered with subtlety and style, the lyrics struck a chord and you could see how meaningful they were to the Nimmo brothers. “Stranger To Love” is the filling in the sandwich and Alan takes the audience quieter and quieter during his extraordinary solo. To hear the sound of a completely unamplified guitar in a room full of people is always something special. Unfortunately, someone found it amusing rather than joining the rest of the room in silent worship which, on this occasion, took away some of the power and control that is so impressive. Finally, we are sent on our way with “Let Love In” and it is back out into the storm with a smile and memories of two contrasting but ridiculously enjoyable sets for the long drive back to Devon.

Review and photos – Rob Wilkins


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