Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kings Go Forth : Live at Johnny Brenda's

Initially Published Here


Given the preponderance of auto-tuned cyborgs passing themselves off as pop stars at the top of the R&B charts (Black Eyed Peas, I am looking in your general direction) , it may be hard to remember there was a time when heavyweight funk and soul acts were capable of delivering the goods live. It’s as if they’ve forfeited the visceral power of great live music in favor of distracting theatrics and an over the top carnival-esque atmosphere.

No, if you want to see great live funk and soul you’ve got to search somewhat off-the-grid. Like Johnny Brenda’s where Milwaukee’s Kings Go Forth brought their powerhouse live show to Philadelphia for the first time. We’re talking about nine pieces crammed onto JB’s tiny stage - guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, two horn players, a percussionist and two singers pumping out a well-oiled set of classic-sounding soul. The twist is that these guys operate at an intensity level to rival the best rock show you’ve ever seen. Bass player/band leader Andy Noble isn’t joking when he says his band’s live show is closer to The Who than ______ (fill in your favorite “Neo-Soul Revival” act). Their were moments during an extended “Don’t Take My Shadow” with guitarist Dan Flynn hunched over his effects pedals and drummer Jeremy Kuzniar exploding behind his kit when the band achieved a kind of lift-off very few bands ever achieve, rock, soul or otherwise.

And floating on top of this righteous noise are the sweet harmonies of Black Wolf and Dan Fernandez. They are a perfectly matched team -- Dan providing a smooth base for Mr. Wolf to soar over. But Kings Go Forth are not a ‘vocal band’ by any stretch. There is serious muscle to their sound that is only going to get stronger as they continue to tour (touring has been sporadic since their debut, The Outsiders Are Back was released last spring). Let’s hope we get to see them here in Philly again soon.

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