Review on Alfie Kingston Covers Duo

Alfie Kingston Duo @ The Wellington, Bristol.

I wouldn't normally choose to go out on a cold, wet and windy Sunday night but I've seen the Alfie Kingston Duo (AKD) play at the Wellington before and it's a gig that I know will be well worth the effort. Plenty of other people thought the same way because the pub is surprisingly busy for such a wet night.

Alfie & James have been playing for a few years now and their reputation on the pub and club circuit, not only in Bristol but all over the South West, draws a crowd that keeps coming back for more.

Contrasting in characters, James is a quiet, enigmatic head down musician whose face is usually covered with a curtain of hair while he's playing. James rarely speaks but doesn't have to, the instrument does the talking with carefully crafted and fluid lead guitar ranging from delicate and sensitive picking to full on runs and string bends more usually seen on the narrow neck of a screaming electric guitar but this is an intense experience performed acoustically.

Alfie on the other hand is the charismatic front man of the two on vocals and guitar who enjoys and encourages audience interaction. He likes to sit on a high stool with his feet on the monitor with a supply of lager close to hand. Most people will know Alfie as a well respected sound engineer and promoter and he mixes the AKDs sound himself with the obvious result that the sound is always first class and tonight is no exception. The understanding between Alfie and James built up over the years of playing live together has created a tight, solid and impressive performance that suggests bigger stages and large capacity crowds.

I manage to get a seat close to the front before the start of the first set and I'm lucky, any empty seats are quickly taken once they start playing and after the first couple of songs the crowd from the back of the bar have moved forward to get a better look. A cover of Guns 'N' Roses, Sweet Child O' Mine livens up the crowd and performed in fine AKD style. Alfie and James don't do the usual covers by numbers like most other bands; they take good, often classic songs, keep the essence of what made them that way in the first place and then add their own take to produce something unique to the AKD. They obviously enjoy what they do and they do it well.

Between songs, Alfie's cheeky stories amuse the audience and he describes the next song as being about sleeping with a girl and then burning her house down, the song turns out to be the Beatles standard, Norwegian Wood which starts with a twin guitar intro that the crowd instantly recognise.

The set veers from classic pop to some of the best acoustic rock you'll hear anywhere. Its a sad fact of life that pub audiences like to hear things they know which is way the AKD usually include only a couple of their own songs in the set list. Alfie is a recording artist in his own right with a current and very fine album, Creatures & People's Ways and a couple of the songs from the album get an outing tonight. Alfie takes a drink from his glass and a trickle of lager runs down the body of his guitar from a drip on the bottom of the glass as he explains that the song, one of his own called She's Scary, is about how a girl is fine for the first couple of years of a relationship but after that she starts to change. The other original, It's Easy, is an anthem that would go down well in a muddy field at the Glasto Festival in front of a swaying crowd of thousands but tonight it's equally well received by an up for it Bristol pub audience.

The AKD play two sets and both contain an amazing selection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan to David Bowie, R.E.M to the Rolling Stones and lots more; the catalogue is a rich and exciting musical feast. Looking around the crowd, people sing along with the lyrics and a woman who's clearly been enjoying the ale on offer comes to the front and dances in front of the stage. When she turns to me and tries to drag me up to dance, I politely decline her kind offer.

The bell for last orders comes around all too quickly and with a noisy crowd demanding more, Alfie thanks the audience and says they look forward to coming back again and I hope they will. The AKD have had a busy touring schedule in 2008 and no doubt 2009 dates are filling up quickly.

So, would I make the effort to come out again on a cold and wet night to see the AKD? Goes without saying, I certainly would and I know the rest of the audience will be back as well.

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