Kings of Leon | 09.12 | New Jersey

Words by: Paul Felt | Images by: Joe Ryan

Kings of Leon :: 09.12.09 :: IZOD Center :: East Rutherford, NJ

Kings of Leon :: 09.12 :: New Jersey
Years from now when people ask me what great American rock music sounded like in the 2000s, I will probably play them some Kings of Leon.

The band's music is refreshingly uncomplicated and lacking in pretense. They make straight-ahead rock music that's not beholden to the limitations or whims of any particular scene, trend, emotion, plight, or technology. Somehow, it seems revolutionary to hear modern rock music be so real, tuneful and intelligent, yet hard driving and raw. And seeing it performed by a group of young men who aren't rock star caricatures baring their chests, piercings and tattoos, or harboring Behind the Music style drama and angst, is a more than welcome bonus.

On a critical note, KOL never gave the crowd much in way of stage theatrics, and it did take them a few songs to hit their stride. "Molly's Chambers," an early hit, arrived early in their set and lacked the intensity it has on record. It seemed to swing more than drive things forward. But, once they loosened up by about four or five songs in, they did their material justice. While I would have rather seen them in a small, sweaty club - and sensed that they would rather be performing in a smaller venue - they showed that they have a right to the throne. This is one of the great American rock bands of our day, replete with a manly-man lead vocalist (Caleb Followill) and an impeccable rhythm section. With his rowdy, sexy lyrics, baritone full of attitude and beard, Caleb is reminiscent of Jim Morrison and Chris Cornell.

Kings of Leon :: 09.12 :: New Jersey
While KOL didn't do much onstage "show" wise, an incredible over-the-top light rig mixed with live videography and film footage enabled the band to fill out the venue with their music and presence.

At several points in the set, Caleb commented that they felt honored to be performing in the arena most closely associated with the pride of the Garden State, Bruce Springsteen. "He was 56 when he last played here. I'm 27," the singer said. He seemed awe-struck, but he and his bandmates, two brothers on bass and drums and a cousin playing lead guitar, have rightfully earned their success and large following. Great showmen these Followills of Tennessee are not, but world-class rockers, musicians, and songwriters they most certainly are.

To paraphrase a line from Frank Zappa, "Rock music's not dead. It just smells funny." If you're inclined to agree, then perhaps Kings of Leon are the band to change your mind. It smells good these days. It's about fuckin' time.

Kings of Leon are on tour now; dates available here.

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[Published on: 9/28/09]

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