It says a lot about the palpable anticipation surrounding the Kings Of Leon’s return to these shores after two years - not to mention their choice of location: an intimate basement club in Central London - that even the distinct honour of having one Jimmy Page standing to my immediate left was still not the most thrilling aspect of last night.
The Led Zep legend had gathered with just a few hundred other lucky and determined fans, who’d heeded yesterday’s announcement by the band of their gig that night, and ran to pick up their tickets from the box office, securing their place at the smallest and sweatiest show the Followill boys have played for years.
But my attentions could not be lured from the stage, from where Matthew, Caleb, Nathan and Jared would, from the very first, rampage through a 100-minute set of tracks plucked from the span of their discography and including brand new album, ‘Walls’, each dispatched with an ignited urgency that, for the first half hour or so, left little opportunity for pleasantries between songs.
Launching with ‘The Bucket’, the Kings must have known from the off there was nowhere to hide from the deafening echoes of their contiguous throng, who were already vocalising the intro louder than the guitars themselves. From there, the accompaniments rarely faltered - ‘Mary’, ‘On Call’ and ‘Taper Jean Girl’ swiftly followed, before fans proved they’d already learned the words to ‘Walls’ track, ‘Find Me’, which impressed Caleb enough to finally address the crowd: “Thank you very much,” he humbly drawls. “You guys are amazing.”
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More than just a dress rehearsal for their 2017 tour, where new songs could be tried and tested in front of a discerning committee, the band scattered the new songs sagely between kindred cuts that allowed their live dynamic to thrust unfalteringly as they heartily thrived in a set clearly driven by instinct. It’s why the pulsing ‘Reverend’ worked so well after the prized ‘Fans’, which erupted with its name-check of London. It’s also why the yearning ‘Over’ should be so well received after the emotive ‘Cornerstone’, leading Caleb to admit: “This is the most fun I’ve had playing a show in a long time. It’s good to be home with our friends,” he says, acknowledging the nation that first fell for the group’s charms back in 2003.
‘Waste A Moment’, the lead single from ‘Walls’, was as mighty and welcomed as previous hits ‘Radioactive’, ‘Supersoaker’, and ‘Molly’s Chambers’, which encircled it, before the main set ended with a dust-down of the evocative ‘Trani’, rarely heard since the early tours.
With little choice but to return for an encore, the quartet began again with ‘Slow Night, So Long’ (the crowd prefacing its “Rise and shine…” coda beautifully), before contrasting bouncy new ‘Around The World’ with the sublime and mesmerizing ‘Arizona’, thrown in (by audience request) at the last minute by the evidently adrenalized band, keen to wring every drop of excitement from the evening before predictably finishing (I mean, there’d be a riot otherwise, right?) with ‘Sex On Fire’ - which, despite how many times you’ve heard it, still sounds so perfectly fucking potent that it’s difficult not to get snagged by its still-sharp hooks.
After 13 years and seven albums, it’s heartening to see the Kings Of Leon still reigning supreme, still capable of shit-kicking, and still so goddamn handsome - the bastards. Last night was a glorious taste of things to come - they’re heading back here to tour in February; now I just need to find out whether Jimmy’s looking for a plus one...
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Words: Simon Harper
Tickets for Kings Of Leon’s Febraury 2017 UK tour go on sale tomorrow. The dates are:
19 Leeds First Direct Arena
20 Birmingham Genting Arena
24 Newcastle Upon Tyne Metro Radio Arena
25 Liverpool Echo Arena
27 Glasgow Hydro