By Matt Wickstrom
Budding blues star Marcus King and his band returned to the stage Monday night for the first of the artist’s recently announced “Four of a Kind: Live from Nashville”streaming concert series. Each of the four shows will feature a new concept and special guests, with last night’s inaugural performance featuring a run-through of King’s most recent album and solo debut El Dorado, produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and released in January.
Throughout the night the band, whom King has performed with live for years but weren’t part of recording El Dorado, helped to breathe new life into the still fresh songs with a bevy of horn arrangements, keys and backup vocals from special guests Maggie Rose and Kate Barnette (Rose will take part in the series again on July 20 as a more prominent guest alongside King and Billy Strings as well as during the final show on Aug. 3, a tribute to The Band’s The Last Waltz, also featuring Barnette and a plethora of other musical guests).
For someone who already pours a heaping amount of emotion into every note and performance, it was obvious from the onset of last night’s show that King was running at an even higher intensity, concentrating all the pent up energy of months without performing into the explosive set. After first entering the venue where the band was performing and driving up to the stage in a vintage Cadillac, King wasted no time getting the blues masterclass underway, cutting into “One Day She’s Here,” one of El Dorado‘s many cuts that show off the artist’s vintage inspired, modern day R&B.
From new vintage to old, “One Day She’s Here” segued into the old school blues of “Sweet Little Angel,” a number first recorded in 1930 by Lucille Bogan before being popularized by B.B. King in 1956. The cover by King showcased his raspy voice, in this instance oozing with emotion as he repeatedly howled “I’ve got a sweet little angel / I love the way she spread her wings” at the top of his lungs while the band reached a cresendo behind him.
After the song, King took a moment to reflect being back on stage with his band, saying “It’s good to be back. We’ve all just been sitting at home and watching TV. I’m getting a bit emotional. I’m just happy to be back playing music with these guys again.”
From there King dove into “Young Man’s Dream,” the opening track of El Dorado before moving onto “Turn It Up,” the evening’s first high octane cut full of meaty riffs, raucous percussion and a medley of horns. After a run that included “Love Song,” “Beautiful Stranger,” “Say You Will” and “Sweet Mariona,” King and company fired up a frenetic country rock retelling of Waylon Jenning’s “Good Hearted Woman” ahead of the country fried southern rock of “Too Much Whiskey.”
Following “Too Much Whiskey” King briefly tempered the intensity with bluesy, heartfelt performances of Wildflowers & Wine” and “Break” before handing the spotlight and lead vocal reigns over to trumpeter and trombonist Justin Johnson for an empowering cover of Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.”
Following the triumphant performance by Johnson and the band, King returned to center stage for “Plant Your Corn Early,” the only original song from the Marcus King Band to be performed on Monday that’s not included on El Dorado, but rather on the band’s 2016 self-titled effort. The song played out like a hellacious instrumental storm, with King giving every member of the band a chance to solo and standout during the marathon medley.
Closing out the show were the final two tracks yet to be performed from El Dorado—”No Pain” and “The Well,” the last of which was the first single from the highly regarded album that is an emphatic, foot-stomping anthem about persevering through hard times, something we can all relate to right now as we try to make sense of and adapt to the new normal that has blanketed our society and the world since COVID-19 took hold.
Marcus King “Four of a Kind” Live from Nashville Night One Setlist
One Day She’s Here
Sweet Little Angel (Buddy Guy cover)
Young Man’s Dream
Turn It Up
Say You Will
Good Hearted Woman (Waylon Jennings cover)
Too Much Whiskey
Wildflowers & Wine
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Nina Simone cover)
Plant Your Corn Early