Royal Blood aren’t due onstage for 15 minutes but a crush has already started in the crowd. The excitement intensifies and by the time the band actually appears grown men are shoving their way to the front, desperate to be close to their new heroes.
Much has been written touting frontman and bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher as the latest saviors of rock. Opinion differs as to whether rock actually needs saving, but what can’t be doubted is that there hasn’t been this much of a fervor surrounding mainstream guitar music since Arctic Monkeys blew up in 2006.
Kerr is a clunkier wordsmith than Alex Turner, but we’re not here for poetry. The duo has been a band for only a short time, but the small arsenal of riff-heavy tracks they’ve unleashed to date have been taken to the hearts of a public clearly hungry for something to latch onto, to believe in. This is the second of two sold-out gigs at the Electric Ballroom in as many days. The venue sizes can’t expand fast enough and in order to capitalise on demand the band has been booked to play Brixton Academy in March. That’s sold out, too.
Unlike Arctic Monkeys, Kerr and Thatcher’s muscular anthems couldn’t bag them the Mercury Prize – they were nominated for their eponymous debut (review) earlier this year. But that’s okay, because no-one in here cares about Mercury Prizes.
B-side ‘Hole’ is a slightly sedate opener, but a dense anticipation hangs on the air. The crowd is waiting for their opportunity to go bonkers. Royal Blood’s brawny music, a lethal combination of AC/DC, Rage Against The Machine and The White Stripes riffs spiked with indestructible, arena-sized choruses, gives them ample opportunity. Half a second into the tumbling, Muse-like metal attack of ‘Come On Over’, half of the room has formed one swirling, pogoing mess. Fans sing the riff of ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ while ‘Figure It Out’, which nods to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, sends everyone crazy when it catapults midway into a completely new orbit.
Every article written about the band has commented on the wall of noise their two-pronged onslaught creates via Thatcher’s relentless skin-pounding and the crunchy, fuzz-laden effects Kerr uses to make his bass sound like a turbo-charged guitar. What’s really noticeable tonight, though, is the way each track is executed with crushingly focused precision. An hour set whizzes by, every one of their tracks exhausted, leaving the crowd wanting more.
In fact, the only time the band really indulges is during closer ‘Out Of The Black’, their best song and their most colossal. By the time they come to extend the outro, draining every last punishing note for all its worth, Thatcher is stood up, hulking over his drum kit and smashing the hell out of it while Kerr’s bass batters, bludgeons and bruises.
Headlining Wembley by this time next year? Surely only a fool would bet against it.
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Words: Dannii Leivers