Midway through Kings of Leon's sold-out show, front man Caleb Followill drawls, "I'm sorry if you can't understand me." Indeed, his distinctive Tennessean voice is difficult to decipher whether singing or talking, but when the band rips into their 2004 hit "The Bucket" followed by "On Call" from 2007, the message hits home: Kings of Leon deliver a rock'n'roll show like few others can these days.
Tonight's show, along with a number of festival gigs, is a warm-up to the release of their new album, Only by the Night, and a UK tour in December. They roll out three songs from the new album: the opener, "Crawl", and "Manhattan", in the encore, are slow-building numbers with bluesy guitar scrawls from Matthew Followill. "Sex on Fire" is a more up-tempo rocker. There is a sense, particularly with "Crawl", that their grand sound could get too inflated and veer into Seventies rock-dinosaur mode.
But this is a minor quibble. The rest of the set is startlingly consistent: memorable pop hooks follow sing-along choruses, the crowd greeting each song from the back catalogue like an old conquering hero.
Caleb is in particularly fine form, oozing classic-rock charisma without ever falling into self-parody. He manages to give a lot by doing very little: moving with the rhythm; an outstretched hand; a small waltz-like dance around the stage. The crowd responds in kind; both singer and the band are tailor-made for big arenas. The drive and determination surely required to put them in such a position is masked by the band's simple approach and the fact that they seem to be just plain enjoying themselves.
After a perfunctory break they return for a three-song encore. "Knocked Up" is stately, while final song "Slow Night, So Long", with its tight yet somehow laid-back guitar riff, admittedly largely indecipherable lyric and Americana-tinged rock stomp, displays the band at their finest.
You could argue that perhaps Kings of Leon have become too polished; a bit too slick for their own good; and there is little here that is particularly musically ground-breaking. However when the foundations have been so royally shaken, few were in the mood to lodge a complaint.Reuse content