What is immediately surprising about Bill Wyman as he steps onto the stage at Dunfermline’s splendid Alhambra Theatre to introduce his band the Rhythm Kings is how small he is. One would have expected the infamous restaurant owner, photographer, keen amateur archaeologist, metal detector seller and ex-Rolling Stones bassist to be somehow taller. What also becomes apparent, as the gig progresses, is how understated he is, once he has made his introductions, happily slipping into the shadows of the stage and letting his band take the limelight. Tonight’s show is not so much about Bill Wyman, but the Rhythm Kings.

The other most famous Rhythm King Georgie Fame is unfortunately not present and is at home, recovering from pneumonia. This however, remains a band of extraordinary calibre. The group’s co-founder, guitarist Terry Taylor, has been a friend of Wyman’s since the 1960s, and is both an arranger and composer and was the former band leader with the much underrated Tucky Buzzard. Graham Broad is Roger Water’s regular drummer, and Beverley Skeete an acclaimed jazz and soul singer. Martin Taylor is one of Britain’s best known jazz guitarists, and Albert Lee – once described as “the guitar player’s guitar player” – has worked with both Emmylou Harris and before her Chris Farlowe. Geraint Watkins –who at four years standing is the newest recruit to the Rhythm Kings – is both Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds’ favourite keyboardist, and Frank Mead (saxophone/harmonica player) and Nick Payn (saxophone/clarinet) are two of Britain’s most in-demand session players.

The Rhythm Kings’ two-and-a-half hour set is given an early boost with a stunning rendition from Skeete of ‘Sweet Soul Music’. Other songs by Etta James, Elmore James, Little Walter and Jackie Wilson are all thrown in, with Terry Taylor, Lee, Watkins and Mead all taking turns on lead vocals. Guest vocals Maria Muldaur floats on and off stage, providing songs in the first half of the gig from a recent 39th album, and then returning in the second set for Mississippi John Hurt’s ‘Richland Woman Blues’ and her best known hit ‘Midnight at the Oasis’, which brings standing applause from the until then seated audience.

For all his unobtrusiveness, Wyman is obviously the lynchpin to everything, his bass playing providing consistently solid backing. It is clear that his bandmates adore him, and he is at 76 and the oldest member of the group is the subject of much light-hearted teasing from the others, the majority of whom are in their sixties, both for being a “war baby” and his habit of sloping off to bed with a cup of Ovaltine once a gig is over. Other highlights include skiffle number ‘Sugar Babe’, which finds Frank Mead as he sings running frantically on the spot, and a masterly version of Bob Dylan’s ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ with Albert Lee on gruff main vocals. The main set is closed with Watkins- who proves himself beforehand the king of the surreal shaggy dog – taking the lead on a jazzy version of Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’.

It a freezing, bitter night outside, and much of the audience have travelled a long way to Dunfermline, not just up from Edinburgh but across Scotland for what is the only Scottish date of the 26 date tour. It is unlikely that anyone has left in any way disappointed. This has been an outstanding show from an outstanding array of talent.










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