Kings of Leon
The raucus Followill cousins were back in town for their first proper headlining gig since the tumultuous 2010 tour, which culminated in lead singer Caleb Followill serving a stint in rehab after vomiting during a show in Dallas. When they last played in this room, back in 2009, Kings of Leon were at the top of the rock world. They had two smash singles in "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody," which seemed like they were on every radio station at the time. Those songs haven't gone away and have grown into rock radio staples, but something changed about the band.
Touring behind the lukewarmly received Mechanical Bull, which seems better suited as a bar than album title, the cousins didn't exactly recall the hard rockin' swagger that marked their early years. Hardly the mega hit when compared to Only By The Night, the album bridges their early days with their more commercial sound of today. Yet in a strange way, the album doesn't transcend above its crisp recording and in a live setting, lacks the fiery grit of the first few albums. Whether you love them or hate them, at least the Followills made you feel something. These days, they've fallen in the dangerous trap that beholds any successful band. In this case, catering the bro'd down arena rock that is completely different than what them a breath of fresh air and so dynamic in the first place.
In a sense, they've settled into an arena rock comfort zone by playing their bigger, crowd pleasing anthems while eschewing the dirty, blues-drenched garage songs that made them favorites in Europe. However, that's not to say that they weren't sonically proficient. In a sense, Kings of Leon were too polished and too finely tuned, where long-time fans wondered what happened to the old band. Like or not, Only By The Night was a flash point in the band's career. That didn't seem to bother the Followills, who were playing in front of a number of friends and family.
Between Caleb's soaring vocals and Matthew Followill's driving guitars setting the pace, the guys were on cruise control, so it seemed, for most of the night. On only the second night of the second leg of the tour, for better or worse, the Nashville-based rockers have settled into a groove. Judging by the crowd, their music has slipped dangerously into date-night status, which was apparent by the number of couples in the audience.
Playing in front of a huge screen, the production value of the show was by far the band's most ambitious. Projecting images varying from pinup models to flowers to the mystical sky while creating a collage with the stage show was a great visual. A complex light show along with bubbles rounded out the special effects. As for the music, the quartet plodded through a 27-song set that alternated between faster paced rockers and melodic arena anthems.The songs from their most recent album and the 2008 smash encompassed 50 percent of the set list, which barring the live debut of "Comeback Story," fell in line with the standard Kings of Leon show. With nearly a dozen cameras tracking the band and the intricate setup, it would be difficult to deviate from this setup otherwise.
What's missing is the grit that defined those early years and performances. Before, you couldn't leave a Kings of Leon gig without wondering what you just saw. Last night, you didn't need somebody to tell you that it was just business as usual for an arena rock band.
Caleb and his cousins couldn't help but flash smiles throughout the set. And why not? Following years of discord, all seems to be well in Talihina.
The Crowd: Post-2008 KoL fans, meaning lots of dates and assorted others
Set List Below:
Back Down South
Wait for Me
Sex on Fire
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.