OK, this post will give away my age: I went to a Level 42 concert. For those of you born after 1980: Level 42 was quite popular between ’81 and ’88. They make music that can be described as funky pop. Their lead singer, Mark King, is also a bass guitar pop-n-slap virtuoso. Up til that moment, bass acrobatics could mostly be found in jazz circles: Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke and (more recently) Victor Wooten. Mark King not only took the technique to a mainstream audience, the guy actually sang while doing amazing stuff on the bass.
King’s tremendously sought-after playing style is largely based on continuous 16ths. He has stated that he developed this “machine-gun-style” after feeling uneasy in front of an audience when he was not playing. Because of this, he ended up playing more notes in each song, such that he was practically playing continuous 16ths throughout the piece.
He’s had several bass guitars made especially for him: most famously the headless Status Graphite “KingBass”.
The concert in Roeselare was one of the last on their “Retroglide” promotion tour. It was, predictably, a mix of new songs (I was was not blown away) and classic hits (I was totally blown away). The members of the band (Mark, Mike Lindup on keyboards/vocals, Gary Husband on drums, Sean Freeman on saxophone and Nathan King – Mark’s brother – on guitar) were actually a bit surprised by the enthusiasm of the crowd. Their hits “The sun goes down”, “Hot Water”, “Leaving me now”, “Lessons in Love”, “Running in the family” and “Something about you” were all greeted with a cheer and sung along by most – I admit, mainly 30-plus – audience. One song I did miss was “Love games”, that they apparently did play in an earlier show in the UK:
In any way, it was great to at last see Mark King play live. His voice might have aged (he did skip some high notes), but his bass playing is as awesome as ever.
And for those of you who want to see someone going even faster than 16-ths: here’s Victor Wooten with his Classical Thump
(I still like Mark King better)