By: Andy Ross
Kings of Leon :: 11.19.08 :: Municipal Auditorium :: Nashville, TN
In 2008, Kings of Leon are unapologetically reveling in the glory of youth and their rock star status. In the five years since they first stepped into the limelight, KOL have hammered out four widely acclaimed albums, each one a progression upon the previous in terms of the group's popularity and recognition as a musical force to be reckoned with. Now touring on the heels of their most recent album, Only By The Night, this outfit of Southern boys have, for better or worse, officially risen to levels they likely never could have dreamed - headlining major music festivals such as Britain's Glastonbury and regularly selling out stadium size venues to adoring fans around the world.
On a recent Wednesday night in Nashville, KOL stopped off for their final show on U.S. soil before departing for a few months of overseas touring. Given that Tennessee is the native stomping ground of the band, I had a heady sense of anticipation for what I was about to see as I got my pre-game going in the Broadway Brewhouse a few blocks down the street from the Municipal Auditorium.
Joining the large but less than capacity crowd a few hours later came with an initial disappointment as I realized opening acts The Whigs and We are Scientists had already wrapped up their sets. My spirits immediately lifted though as soon as KOL opened up the show with "Crawl." With its hard driving bassline and drumbeat, heavy distortion and catchy lyrics, the new track seems custom fit for jacking up crowds for some serious fist pumping and crowd surfing. Next came a couple songs from their 2004 album Aha Shake Heartbrake, followed by "Molly's Chambers," one of their early hits and a reminder of the more raw, unfiltered sound the group began with.
By the time they made it though newbies such as "Sex On Fire" and "Revelry" I couldn't help but notice the legions of swooning young girls singing along and capturing every song on their cell phone video recorders. Was this rock 'n' roll or not? I was a little conflicted. On one hand, the pure sound being spit out by KOL was unbelievably solid and crisp. These guys were tight, tight, tight. There was lead singer/rhythm guitarist Caleb Followill's beautifully gritty, perfectly timed vocals dipping and rising with his riffs and falling right in line with the precision beats provided by his brother Nathan on drums. There was the soul stirring basslines of other brother Jared that somehow are always towards the front of the band's sound yet never overbearing. Lead guitarist and first cousin to the brothers, Matthew Followill was also on point the entire night with his concise yet soaring solos, taking over at exactly the right times and leaving plenty of breathing room for the rest of the group. Hearing the combination of these forces up close and personal surpassed all expectation for how they would come off live.
On the other hand, KOL seemed to emit a somewhat jaded vibe from the stage. Bouncing quickly from one song into the next, they played pretty much every tune straight through just as it would appear on an album. No extended variations, covers or improvisation emerged throughout the night. No real banter with the audience, either. It was as if they knew good and well that all they would have to do to keep the crowd clamoring was run through mostly familiar tracks, which by now they could probably pull off in their sleep. Maybe that is just what the crowd wanted but I left the show feeling more could have been laid on the line. For a group as obviously gifted as the Kings of Leon throwing in a few unexpected twists for their hometown crowd on the last night of the tour would have been in order. The fact the show was over and done with well before midnight only further confirmed this feeling.
|Kings of Leon by ShortyDesign |
Yet beyond this complaint there was no denying the pure listening pleasure. Getting personal favorites such as "Milk" and "Charmer" was a stirring experience to be sure. The intro to the former, building slowing from Caleb's single guitar and vocals into an explosion of crystal clear drums and bass was proof that some music cannot be truly felt unless it is in a live setting. Such was also the case for "Knocked Up," which came out at the beginning of the encore and had me blissfully swimming in the quick breaks and progressions like it was the first time I'd heard the song. Even new tracks such as "Use Somebody" and "Manhattan" that some older fans are critiquing for their pop oriented inclinations were ear candy. Sure, they may be a bit cheesy and get the young girls singing along but so what? It is still some pretty badass music and songwriting of the first order.
Kings of Leon are nothing if not a prime example of a band that rode the wave from obscure rednecks to international rock stars. The thing is, they totally deserve it. No matter what the group does next - and I sure hope they do a lot more - the material already penned is likely going to be around for a very long time. It has an irresistible quality to it, an unyielding celebration of the gritty pain and joy that comes with growing up and enduring this thing called life. Sure, we all have shitty days but for a lot of us there is also the chance for renewal as we blast out music like KOL on a dark night, barreling down the highway away from pain and back towards the party.
JamBase | Tennessee
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