The Marcus King Band is touring in support of their latest album release, El Dorado. Their stop at Los Angeles, California’s Fonda Theatre on January 31, 2020 was a tour de force for King and his band as they played several of the new tracks, a few of their older songs and mixed in a few inspirational covers. The crowd was mesmerized by King’s guitar playing and the strong chemistry of his talented band.
South Carolinian Marcus King is only 23, but he is already a seasoned, touring veteran who has built a solid reputation as a talented guitarist, bandleader, songwriter and singer. While King will never be described as a world-class vocalist, he gets the job done. His nasal, high pitched singing is at its best when he lowers the volume on slower, soulful, bluesy tunes. Fortunately, he mixed in a few of those at the Fonda show.
His vocals were always on key and he sang passionately, but his greatest talent is the versatility he displays on guitar. King is a master when performing slow blues, soul, country and southern rock songs. He really shows his incredible chops on the fast, rocking tunes. The dazzling forays along the fretboard and rapid-fire finger picking were as thrilling as the hypnotic tones he got with the slide.
Switching styles effortlessly, he never overplayed and often left the audience spellbound. He can favorably be compared with Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and several of the blues legends that influenced him. During the Fonda Theatre performance, King used an assortment of gorgeous Fender and Gibson guitars to get the precise sound he was looking for on each song.
The show opened with a blazing instrumental tune that introduced the audience to the tight six-piece band. King is a generous songwriter and performer, willing to share the spotlight with his bandmates. Early in the show during “Where I’m Headed,” from the 2018 album Carolina Confessions, Justin Johnson on trumpet and Dean Mitchell on saxophone performed brilliant alternating horn solos. Together they played tight arrangements throughout the show and took inventive solos during several songs.
King paid tribute to blues legend Willie Dixon when he teased “I Just Want to Make Love to You” in the middle of a new track from El Dorado called “One Day She’s Here.” He also played a full stanza of Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man.” The new album was co-written and produced by The Black Key’s singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach. Other tracks from the new album that got worked out at the Fonda Theatre included “Love Song,” “Sweet Mariona,” “Say You Will” and “Break.”
Keyboardist Dane Farnsworth is the newest bandmember, but his excellent clavinet, organ and piano playing blended seamlessly into the band’s sound. His interplay with King during Carolina Confessions’ “Side Door” was brilliant. On another new track “Always,” Farnsworth broke out a talk box and scatted over one his keyboards to the delight of the crowd. That song segued into a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Jesus Children of America” with King taking an impressive solo and finishing with drummer Jack Ryan alone on stage for an extended solo. It was one of the highlights of the show.
Farnsworth came back out first and launched into a gospel-inspired organ intro as the rest of the band returned for “Confessions,” a soulful, blues number from Carolina Confessions. Near the end of the show, King introduced all of the bandmembers who each took solos. The set ended with a blistering version of King’s tribute to his home, “Goodbye Carolina.” The heir apparent to the southern jam rock throne played a sizzling slide solo before saying goodnight and leaving the stage.
The band came back for an encore with two guest vocalists, Kate and Tiffany. They harmonized with King on a new ballad called “Beautiful Stranger.” The ladies left the stage as the band ended the night with another new one that has an anthemic, catchy sound that could turn into a classic called “The Well.” King wailed away on his guitar as the rest of the band played the tight melody. The band took bows at the front of the stage before leaving and the house lights came on. It was an epic night of blues, soul, countrified honky-tonk and southern rock performed by an excellent band.
Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2020.