Marcus King & Neal Francis Bring Musical Authenticity to Madison, WI

Review and Photos by Stephen Bloch

On Saturday 9/24, The Sylvee in Madison, WI played host to two fine young musical talents, Marcus King and Neal Francis. Twenty six year old Greenville, SC native King is currently on tour in support of his current release, Young Blood, while Chicago native Neal Francis is touring in support of his 2021 release In Plain Sight as well as his upcoming release, Sentimental Garbage.

Francis took the stage right at 7pm with his stellar band consisting of Kellen Boersma on guitar, Mike Starr on bass, and Collin O’Brien on drums. The venue was packed early, which could very well mean that concert goers were there as much for Francis as they were for King.  Their nearly 50 minute set included all of their hits including “Changes, Pts 1 & 2”, “She’s a Winner”, and “Can’t Stop the Rain”.  The highlight came in the closer, “Sentimental Garbage”, which leans more towards psychedelic rock than their customary soulful jams.  Patrons were definitely rewarded for their early entry.  This is a band that should be on everyone’s radar both for their musical chops and for their stage presence.

After a very brief comedic interlude by Dean Delray, King took the stage donning his traditional cowboy hat and western shirt with a kerchief hanging out of his back pocket. King has put together an all-star rock and roll band with multiple percussionists, heavy organ notes, and some horns. Of course, there is LOTS of guitar happening from both King and fellow lead guitar Drew Smithers.  It’s a full in-your-face sound of soul tinged southern rock and roll.  The show kicked off with “It’s Too Late”, a track that oozes Jimi Hendrix.  King is an unabashed rocker but has no problems throwing in some serious soul, as was found in the cuts “Beautiful Stranger” and “Thespian Espionage” (which also has a heavy jazz vibe). King’s bread and butter is definitely Allman-esque rock and roll, so it’s no surprise that his current release is titled Young Blood, a nickname given to him by Allman’s drummer Jaimoe. The band returned to its rock and roll roots before an epic drum solo from Jack Ryan during “Wildflowers & Wine.” For the encore, King was joined by both Francis on piano and O’ Brien on percussion. The show highlight for this guest came in the form of Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady”.  Francis and O’ Brien fit right into this mix!

Marcus King and Neal Francis are bringing old soul music (and some rock and roll) to old souls and a new generation of young souls.  These are hard working and entertaining artists with no chance of slowing down. 

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