Marcus King at College Street Music Hall  

Larson Sutton on June 13, 2024
Marcus King at College Street Music Hall  

Marcus King is the guitar hero of and for today’s times. That’s maybe stating the obvious, at this point, and a conclusion anyone could, and probably should, draw when witnessing this generational talent with the sterling voice, who occasionally sits at the keyboard, and shares the limelight with his ensemble just as comfortably as he takes guitar solos that shred and cry and melt. King is in a very good place, thankfully, and his 100-minute comet of a performance in New Haven is just the latest in what is a rapidly rising trajectory, particularly with this tour in support of his brilliantly soulful, yet complex Mood Swings LP.

Over a decade ago, King emerged from South Carolina as a teenage firebrand burning down the club scene with the blues and rock inclinations of his Marcus King Band. With a succession of albums since, King has volleyed between his Band and a solo career that exposed a variety of other influences, including country and soul, that has him now alternating between solo dates in mid-size theaters supporting Mood Swings and appearances in arenas and stadiums with Chris Stapleton. It’s a crossover appeal that King is cultivating and enjoying, and was on full display in New Haven.

Opening with “Beautiful Stranger,” King and his extended backing band- including a three-piece horn section- indicated from the start their eclectic intentions, swinging from introspective neo-soul to flashy, riff-driven rock to the balladry of “Hero.” King was impressively sharp on guitar, as expected, with such fluency and touch. As well, his voice was full of the life and time spent earning this moment. Yet, King gave plenty of space to the birthday boy, guitarist Drew Smithers, whose versatile work on slide provided the perfect collaborator, and to his brass section that added the simmer and neon shading of his latest repertoire.

King took the near-capacity crowd to the “Inglewood Motel (Halestorm),” and to “Honky Tonk Hell,” and switched out his electric for an acoustic, or detoured to the keyboard; a subtle reminder of his myriad abilities. And while the set reflected the catharsis of Mood Swings, and King’s examination of his own mental health, there were welcomed cap-tips to his past, including a late-set storming rendition of the King Band’s “Goodbye Carolina.” He closed properly with the energetic “Hoss,” then returned for an encore that kicked off with an homage to Willie Nelson, sitting once again at the keys, melding “You Were Always On My Mind” into his own “Delilah.” Finally, King and his torrid group blitzed through a slightly reworked take on Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” that flat-out mesmerized the Connecticut crowd.

It’s easy to claim this performance by Marcus King and his band as star-turning. King is that hot right now. Confident, expressive, rocking through a tightened, soul-revue flavored set that accentuates all of his strengths–and there are many–King is on a fantastic run, and one that should not be missed.