Review: Franck Ash Band at the King’s Head Theatre

Image: Franck Ash

“We’ve got a lot of Blues for you tonight,” declared guitarist and vocalist, Franck Ash, as he turned Islington’s King’s Head theatre into a slice of the American South for the evening. Jack Daniels flowed freely from the bar, whilst the dim lighting and wooden panelling around the venue contributed to the sense of small-town nostalgia.

Opener ‘You Shook Me’ was typical blues fare, recounting the tale of a girl who moved him “just like an earthquake moves land.” Its rhythmic drum beat and thumping bass line got feet tapping, and, at over seven minutes long, provided ample time to include a complex, lengthy guitar solo demonstrating why Ash used to play alongside Blues legend Screamin’ Jay Hawkins just prior to his death.

Image: Franck Ash
Image: Franck Ash

Vocally, Ash was a passionate performer – the rousing original track ‘Poison’ exhibited his well-practiced drawl. Thanks to a life immersed in the Blues, the French native has transformed his accent into Americana personified. The swagger he possesses is even more evident during ‘Hoochie Coohie Man’ and the viscerally intense cover of Elmore James’s classic ‘It Hurts Me Too’.

Resembling John Travolta during the Pulp Fiction days, the restless edge Ash gives to ‘Well Alright’ builds to a crescendo and certainly wouldn’t feel out of place in a Tarantino film. Fittingly, one man, sporting a vintage leather jacket, Easy Rider shades and iconic 70’s handlebar moustache, can’t help sauntering up to the bar as the track played.

‘Get Out’ is equally energetic, with Ash’s bassist giving real funk to the tale of temptation and remorse. However, the undoubted highlight is another trademark guitar solo which brings wolf whistles and howls of appreciation from the audience.

The band do manage to alter the tempo at various intervals, adding necessary balance to the proceedings. One of the final songs before one of Ash’s numerous rest breaks during the two hour set is a longing rendition of ‘Like A Road’. The line “turn around and I’ll be there like a road leading home” induced many misty eyes and meaningful glances between couples in the bar. One man and woman, who had been getting closer and closer on the sofa all night, certainly didn’t go home with the blues.

 All in all, a fantastic night of free live music, in a fantastically intimate and vibrant setting.

The King’s Head Theatre, free, 9.30pm – 11.30pm