Photos by Chris Gray
King's X has to be one of the great mysteries of rock music from the past two decades or so. Caught in the teeth of the social transition between hair-metal and grunge, the Houston trio - the same lineup of Doug Pinnick (bass/vocals), Ty Tabor (guitar) and Jerry Gaskill (drums) that moved here from Missouri around 1980 - has never had a problem impressing cognoscenti from both camps, but has never come close to reaching the same level of widespread recognition and commercial success as admirers like Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament (who once said "King's X invented grunge").
After a stiff dose of AC/DC's Back In Black, the stock pre-show music for seemingly every show this summer (see also: Journey, Kid Rock), the trio came onstage about 9:25 p.m. to a heroes' welcome. Meridian's main room was nearly full when King's X strode out, and considerably less so when Boston not-so-bad boys Extreme were doling out their Aerosmith-meets-Godsmack hardness (much more than "More than Words," I will say) a couple hours later.
Opening with the piledriving "Groove Machine," steering into the near-metal twisted groove of "Rocketship," King's X put on a clinic in sleek, soulful Texas hard rock. Pinnick's bass was very much the lead instrument, negotiating the distance between the complicated vocal harmonies and searing chainsaw riffs with a low-to-the-ground, almost nonchalant assurance. "Black Flag" was part blues, part grind, and very ZZ Top (which shouldn't come as a huge shock, I suppose, especially since former ZZ manager Bill Ham was looking on in the audience).
Even if Pinnick is nearing 60, it's never too late to count King's X out, especially given the twists and turns of nostalgia culture. The massive "yeah yeah yeah" chorus of "Move Me" gave Ament's words extra weight - if you haven't noticed, the early '90s are back in a big way right now - while "Dogman," "Go Tell Somebody" and "Over My Head" were likewise full steam ahead. One of the most underrated bands of its time may turn out to be one of the most underrated bands of ours. "You guys are awesome," Pinnick remarked at one point. "Do people say 'awesome' anymore?"
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Sometimes... if you've earned it. Upon further reflection, King's X resembles no other band so much as another soulful hard-rock act fronted by a black bass-playing badass, another band beloved much more by its peers than the world at large. The further the trio plowed into its set Tuesday, the more it became clear that King's X is Texas' own Thin Lizzy.
"We're not done yet," Pinnick said shortly before the band launched into "Over My Head." Obviously not. - Chris Gray
Note: Meridian management said they were close to confirming King's X for the club's final Rock the Bayou afterparty on Monday, September 1. Stay tuned.