Review: Marcus King – SWG3, Glasgow

This is another first for me, my first time at SWG3. Situated on the river Clyde just outside the main hustle and bustle of the city centre, SWG3 was a former galvanisers and TV studio that has been transformed into a hub for live music, clubs, and art exhibitions.

First on tonight are Ida Mae, a husband and wife duo based in Nashville but hailing originally from Norfolk, who are accompanied by Nick Pini on upright bass.

Easing into the set with some beautiful slide guitar (reminiscent of Derek Trucks) by singer/guitarist Chris Turpin, “Raining for You” is a perfect example of the duo’s rootsy Americana sound. The pair’s vocals complement each other and there are hints of Lyndsay Buckingham and Joy Williams in there. As the song builds to its conclusion Turpin wrings incredible sounds from his beaten-up steel guitar. “Reaching” is a foot-stomping folk blues that makes good use of Turpin’s electric bass drum and vocalist Steph Jean’s impressive tambourine skills. Chris Turpin is certainly no slouch on the guitar delivering some impressive slide work and dare I say it, slide shred with some blisteringly fast licks.

Steph informs the crowd that this is their first tour back after having a baby. “It’s quite hard work isn’t it, having a baby,” she says in a faux weary manner before laughing. They play an extremely tender cover of Barbara Keith’s “Detroit Or Buffalo” with Turpin and Jean taking turns to rest their heads on each other during the performance. “Click Click Domino”, the current single picks up the intensity again and the set is rounded out with “Chasing Lights” with an impressive bass solo from Pini. It’s fair to say they wowed the audience in a swift thirty-minute set. Any fans of The Civil Wars should definitely check them out.

And now for the main event. I have missed Marcus King twice now on his trips to Glasgow so I was determined to catch him this time. The singer/guitarist is touring his second solo record “Young Blood” (His fourth album including the two billed as The Marcus King Band). As the eight-piece band fills the stage there are the odd cheers but it’s not until Marcus himself appears that the crowd erupts finally figuring out that the band was not just road crew making finishing touches to the stage. A few bars into opener “It’s Too Late” Marcus instructs the band to start again as the timing was off. Upon restarting it’s faster and more intense, and loud. SO DAMN LOUD. In fact, my ears are still ringing as I write this 18 hours later! I suppose the wall of Orange amps behind the drum kit should have been a warning.

For those not in the know King’s music is a blend of soul, blues, country, jazz, and funk. A real mixing pot. Taking inspiration from the great jam bands like The Allman Brothers Band. The sound is thick with so many instruments filling every single space and every musician in the band is a maestro at their craft. Not only filling every space of the mix but at times it’s hard to hear where one song stops and another begins with most of the set flowing like a continuous jam session. I know Marcus King is a phenomenal guitarist but nothing prepared me for his first of many solos. Displaying all the speed and finesse of some of the best shredders on the planet yet never straying away from the elements that make it bluesy and soulful. Often trading licks with slide guitarist Drew Smithers which only solidifies the Allman Brothers influence. At times it was almost overwhelming. King tackles Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” and showcases his other talent, his singing. Smooth and buttery and then he hits you with a James Brown shriek as the band simmers away behind him. “Y’all feelin’ good so far?” Marcus asks as organist Mike Runyon plays some gospel chords. “We’re all gonna get to know each other real well tonight folks”. It feels more like a congregation than a gig but as long as we’re worshiping the music that’s all that matters. Runyon’s gospel keys make way for some solid country in “Pain”. Speaking of covers of which there are a handful scattered throughout the set list, it was refreshing to hear Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” given the Marcus King treatment.

The real standout performer for me had to be drummer Jack Ryan. It’s clear he’s a guy that knows his jazz and funk chops. More than just a timekeeper he injects a level of flair into the instrument that keeps him exciting to listen to as demonstrated by his drum solo. With the rest of the group leaving the stage, Ryan blasts through an exciting solo keeping everyone hooked despite a somewhat minimalist kit (just the way I like it.) The horns return and treat us to a New Orleans Jazz-styled “Danny Boy” and it’s a real thrill to hear live brass on stage (a rarity for us rock fans) and the trio sounds glorious. I’m delighted when they play “Rita is Gone” which just might be my favourite Marcus King Band number. King sneakily slips The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” into the instrumental section of “Lie Lie Lie” as if there was still room in an already packed setlist. A pair of encores in the way of “Goodbye Carolina” and “Coming Home” close the evening and I feel completely satisfied.

The original material played tonight is elevated far beyond the versions recorded for the albums proving Marcus King needs to be experienced live to fully appreciate his and his band’s mastery!

Review – Colin Plumb

Remaining tour dates:

26th – O2 Ritz, Manchester, UK
27th – The Academy, Dublin, Ireland

Tickets for all shows are available here –

Top photo credit: Danny Clinch


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