Kings of Leon, 02 Arena, London
Friday 03 June 2011
Four scruffy guys walk on to the stage amid a noise level that rivals thunder and take hold of their instruments. Familiar rifts entice the crowd as a sepia film brings the faces of the Followill family close up even to thosein the deepest corners of the 02.
It could be said that "Sex on Fire" was the track that made these Southern boys a household name, but the material they produced before hitting the mainstream is plentiful and any true fan will have done some digging. Currently on their fifth studio album, the Tennessee group's older music illustrates stronger country roots before it evolved into the arena rock that made the mainstream latch on.
Caleb's husky voice carries well and is effortlessly sexy, with a just- got-out-of-bed flavour. Romance aside, the performance is confident and comfortable. They don't fill the stage in their movements and, although you'd hardly call Kings of Leon static, there's not too much "rocking". The jumping around is left to the fans. Crowd interaction may not be their focal point perhaps, and the Followills have the look of the "strong and silent" type.
With a stack of hits to choose from, the set list is well put together with an interesting but solid mix, from the slow-rising "Milk" to the excellent "Revelry" and crowd-pleasing "Radioactive". Their basslines kick you in the stomach and make you want to yelp in delight rather than pain.
It's a massive operation. Large amounts of equipment and people appear between almost every song, which is nearly off-putting, but the fact their music translates perfectly from the studio to the stage means the audience is not entirely distracted from the action.
At The 02 there's always the risk of losing atmosphere, ticket sales bumping out intimacy, but the sea of faces is glued to the front, hands are raised up towards the dome roof for the entire set and the dollops of sexy slow melodies resonate in the large venue.
The call for an encore stretches from cheers to yelps. The stage is empty for so long that there's a panic that they're not coming back at all. Never fear, they don't disappoint with "Crawl" and, of course, the infamous "Sex on Fire", forever immortalised with its teeth-tearing, chicken-eating video that has the girl screaming and the guys singing too.
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