reCAP :: The Marcus King Band :: 2019.03.08 :: The Capitol Theatre

Mar 12  / Tuesday
Words by Ryan Hall Photos by Dino Perrucci and Andrew Scott Blackstein

Imagine with me a musical smorgasbord. Take Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers Band, and the three Kings of the Blues (BB, Freddie, and Albert). Throw them all into a boiling vat of Southern soul. That’s exactly how you create the musical magic that is the Marcus King Band.

Originally scheduled to play Garcia’s, ticket demand was so high that The Cap made the unprecedented move of moving the Friday, March 8 show from Garcia’s to the main stage at The Capitol Theatre. And they made the best out of their opportunity as they completely rocked one of the most hallowed stages in rock music. From Greenville, South Carolina, the Marcus King Band features drummer Jack Ryan, Stephen Campbell on bass (whose birthday was the day of the show,) keyboard player Deshawn Alexander, brass player Justin Johnson, and sax player Dean Mitchell. They’re all young and incredibly accomplished musicians.

I’ve got to say, though, Marcus really is something special. He’s as old school as they come. I could tell he was old school when he stepped on stage with a Gibson Flying V strapped around his neck. Not unlike Albert King himself. Marcus King is the son of a legendary Carolina musician. He’s a guy with old school influences. And he’s got guitar chops that reminded me a lot of Joe Bonamassa (who I’d LOVE to see play the Cap. He’s a protégé of Capitol Theatre favorite Warren Haynes. He’s appeared numerous times with the Tedeschi Trucks Band (another Cap favorite). They have appeared on Conan and Colbert. They’re really making a name for themselves on the national stage. Marcus is a killer bandleader. He’s confident on stage. He’s got a singing voice that has a young Gregg Allman edge to it. With a touch of Warren Haynes for good measure. But during the show, I remember thinking that he appeared to be quite young. I had no idea he would turn but 23 years old a few days after the concert at The Cap. This blows my mind because he plays with the soul and the passion of an old bluesman. Dare I say, he plays with the soul and the passion of the three Kings of the blues!

The entire band blows me away. Fabulous horns with a killer rhythm section, they really are something special. Johnson and Mitchell get a big sound out of only a two-piece horn section. Ryan and Campbell drive the Band like a freight train locomotive. I want to single someone out. It wasn’t just because his rig was set up in the front of the stage, but I found myself watching keyboard player Deshawn Alexander a lot. His Hammond organ sound reminded me a little of Chester Thompson of Tower of Power. He’s got a little Larry Dunn from Earth, Wind, and Fire in him. But he really shined when he switched to the clavinet on a few songs. Especially late in their show. He sounded like Stevie Wonder in his heyday! Nasty, nasty funk!

Before I go much further, I want to address something. A lot of listeners describe the Marcus King Band as Southern rock. And while I could be all “get off my lawn” about my disdain for that phrase, I won’t disagree with the term. However, their music is way deeper than that. If you think about it, rock, jazz, soul, and country music all originated in the south. And they all originated from one particular kind of music. From Marcus’ guitar work and vocals, to the horns and rhythm section, there’s no denying that the Marcus King Band is firmly rooted in the blues.

Sprinkled among their phenomenal original material, the Marcus King Band mixed in covers from the Marshall Tucker Band, Chicago, Billie Holiday, AND Funkadelic! For a bunch of young cats, their musical palates are incredibly varied and flexible. But make no mistake, the Marcus King Band is firmly rooted in the blues. And when you look at the Marcus King Band, and Marcus himself, you know without a doubt that the blues are in good hands with these young Carolina cats.

On a personal note, you know a musical act really connects with you on a deep level when they can remind you of something within yourself. And after their encore break, that’s exactly what happened. Right at two years ago, I left Alabama – the only home I’ve ever known – to make a new start in New York as a life coach and an author. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I firmly believe it will pay off in the end.

I felt a lot of guilt for leaving home. I grieved it as a relationship I lost. But this line from “Goodbye Carolina brought things into such a beautiful perspective for me. “Where I'm going, I won't have these reminders of what I lost, what was taken away from me, and I hope you'll understand I was a broken man in my own hometown, need to find my own peace”

Moving up here allowed me to finally grieve losing my Mom and Dad and allowed me to see just how broken I really was. To Marcus and the Boys, thank you for reminding me in such a beautiful way. They’re incredible songwriters. They’re brilliant musicians. And by all accounts, they’re a bunch of humble country boys who are taking the music world by storm. The blues are in very good shape with the Marcus King Band. Thank you, Capitol Theatre, for a night I won’t soon forget.

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