For the first time in their near fifty year career, The Kentucky Headhunters finally landed in the UK last year with Bad Touch in tow. And it was a highlight in a year full of incredible gigs. So with the announcement of the exact same billing, in the same venue and again, the last night of the tour, there was only one place to be.
Opening proceedings are The Swamp Born Assassins and from all the t-shirts and the reaction they get as soon as they hit the stage, there’s a lot of people here to see them. Much like their Wildfire set this year, it’s rough around the edges and they could lose a couple of band members and produce the same sound. Actually, it’d probably make it a tighter outfit. Whilst they’re trying to make a sound reminiscent of sludgy Delta blues (the hint is in the name), it comes across instead as a hard rock band of the 70s with blues influences.
Bad Touch waste no time in making their mark on the night. No strangers to Glasgow, having played the ABC2 (and the big room with King King) on several occasions, the final night of the tour feels like a homecoming. Loaded with their standard energy, from the beginning you can see they’re playing better than ever. The chemistry between the quintet is almost tangible as they hit many favourites like “My Mother Told Me”, “Outlaw” and “99%” as well as a new song.
Alongside that, the slide guitar from Rob Glendinning introduces “Wise Water” and as mentioned during their own Wildfire performance, it’s like he’s never been away. Meanwhile, much like Paul Rodgers, Stevie Westwood’s voice sounds even better live than on record as he and the band tear through Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” in their inimitable way before closing the evening with “The Mountain”. Continually thanking the crowd and tonight’s headliners, they continue to prove they’re the real deal.
After a quick changeover and a round of “Happy Birthday” for Bad Touch’s Seeks, The Kentucky Headhunters prove the ABC2 was the place to be in a typical Glasgow night of several gigs across the city. Conducting a lesson on Southern rock and delving into their mammoth back catalogue, they improve upon last year’s show. With stories of their dearly departed friend, Johnnie Johnson and songs from their Meet Me in Bluesland album along with renditions of “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” and “House of the Rising Sun”, both of which are led by Richard Young’s rasping vocals, it takes little encouragement to get the crowd to join in for the latter.
The four-piece reaffirm they’re one of the tightest live bands you’ll see. Richard Young’s scratching Telecaster rhythm tones mix well with the chunkier sounds of Greg Martin’s Les Paul leads. Intermingling with that are the rich tones of Doug Phelps’ bass work matching his vocal work with one of the highlights coming in “Wishin’ Well”. It’s something you only get when you play for almost five decades.
With a drum solo from Fred Young showing energy and finesse a drummer half his age should be jealous of, the breather agrees with the rest of the band as they return to the stage in even finer form. With a medley of “Spirit in the Sky”, “Dumas Walker” and “Davy Crockett”, the band introduce the final song of the night in the form of “Don’t Let Me Down” before segueing into “Hey Jude” for which they’re joined by Bad Touch. The band themselves acknowledge it was done last year but when it was that good and even better this time, you have to admit it’s a thrilling end to a great night and likely for the two bands, the tour.
Last year was something special given it was The Kentucky Headhunters’ first time venturing to the UK. Admittedly, I didn’t expect them to return so soon but because they did and once again with Bad Touch, both bands upped the ante from last year to make a night which eclipses that previous performance.
Photos courtesy of Sean Larkin Photography