Aaron Lee Tasjan
Review by Sheryl Bryant
The Aaron Lee Tasjan Band pulled off a solid opening set at Fletcher Hall on Friday, December 6th. Veterans of the festival circuit, ATB faced the grueling task of opening for the Marcus King Band, but the bohemian ATB rose to the occasion and set the groove for a great night of music. Hats off to this three piece band for boogying through nine well crafted and clever tunes. The setlist went as follows:
The Dangerous Kind
Crawling at Your Feet
The Trouble with Drinkin’
The Rest is Yet to Come
Heart Slows Down
If Not Now When?
Set You Free
A luthier prepares guitars for the evening’s show backstage.
Firing things up from the moment they hopped on stage at a quarter past nine, the Marcus King Band swept in like a gale force wind and turned up the heat. The Carolina Theatre show was sold out and the crowd in the Durham, NC venue was bursting at the seams with excitement. It’s amazing what this six piece band who formed in Greenville, SC can pull off in just one show.
Lead vocalist, songwriter and guitar virtuoso Marcus King is damn sure the whole package. He brings a phenomenal vocal depth and range to the party while doing a balancing act between hardcore blues, and soul filled, funky Southern rock. A gifted musician, the trait seems to be genetic. King is the fourth generation of his family to carry the musical DNA. As he faithfully promised the audience, if he takes you down low on one tune, he will lift you to the sky on the next.
With King as frontman, the band is: Jack Ryan on drums, Stephen Campbell on bass, Justin Johnson on trumpet and trombone, Dean Mitchell on sax and steel guitar and Asheville based Simon Thomas George now on keyboards. MKB has assembled an extremely tight and stellar lineup. At night’s end, each artist got time to display their individual talents with outrageously good solos.
The Marcus King Band bends genres like one would peel off the layers of an onion. One after the other each layer reveals more versatility. To give you an analogy, the MKB show felt like the ghosts of Highway 61 sat down at the table of a Carolina church revival and served up a hot plate of collard greens, BBQ and banana pudding. There was a mix of Blues and Funk with the Soul poured over it like a thick gravy (all greased up and soaked in Southern Rock and Gospel.) The jam filled two hour rock and roll experience was so inspirational I expected any minute for the offering plate to be passed down the pews where it would be graciously filled.
The covers of Marshall Tucker’s “Can’t You See”, Waylon and Willie’s “Good Hearted Woman” Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” were all authentic and impressive. But the burning hot jams and the lyrically honest and genuine originals are what captures the hearts of the crowd. These cuts are only a few of the fifteen songs performed that evening. “How Long”, Homesick”, “Confessions”, “Where I’m Headed” and the poignant “Goodbye Carolina” off their third album Carolina Confessions. Also performed were “Rita is Gone” from the Marcus King Band LP and “The Well”, from the album of the same name. “Dyin’ ” and “I Won’t Be Here” were also standout and pulled from the album Soul Insight released in 2015.
Off and on the audience was torpedoed with relentless jams, only to be later cradled in slower, soul driven Southern R&B. Newer fans were surprised at how smoothly and flawlessly MKB switches gears (Marcus’ guitars were alternated at least ten times and at the end of the show when Aaron Tasjan Band returned to the stage, King even exchanged guitars and took on an acoustic). Existing fans have come to rely on near perfection and the MKB is known for delivering it. From the mezzanine to the orchestra areas and up to the balconies and boxes came a constant roar of applause.
The Durham stop marked about a third of the way through MKB’s El Dorado Tour which began on Halloween in Kansas City and wraps up on February 15, 2020 in Denver. If you can get to an MKB show, my advice is to go for it. Satisfaction guaranteed.