Kings of Leon, Wembley Arena, London

Click to follow

Nathan Followill has come a long way since banging the drums to the beat of his father's Pentecostal preachings in America's Deep South. Tonight, perched high in the decidedly non-sanctified cavern of Wembley Arena, back straight, eyes front, arms blurred in crashing rhythm, he drives a different kind of exaltation; not in the cause of spiritual enlightenment, perhaps, but rather to bring the firmament tumbling down.

His brothers Caleb and Jared and cousin Matthew Followill on lead guitar have made similarly unflappable progress. Discovered in Nashville and coaxed into shape by the producer Angelo Petraglia, the Kings arrived in the UK in the slipstream of a new, cool-rock Americana. Their first two albums, Youth and Young Manhood and 2004's Aha Shake Heartbreak, bore songs caught in the wind-rush of oncoming stardom; momentary romances, urgent thumps on hotel-room doors, ephemeral clarity found amid whiskey fumes. But with the darker, heavier Because of the Times, the signs are that the Kings all cool and poise and skinny, skinny jeans may be starting to ask more of their devoted legions.

One of the prices to pay for acquiring such legions is that you have to find somewhere big enough to fit them all in. Wembley strips the Kings of a little subtlety, takes a mite from the lush cadence of Caleb's voice. But then, you glide on stage, deliver the old one, two, three, and nuance scuttles out of the air vent. A pulsating "Slow Night, So Long" is followed by the spiky, dark heart of "Black Thumbnail", before "King of the Rodeo", a mighty sing-along, has the bodies flailing and the good times rolling. "The Bucket" races by, soaked in youthful insecurity and lilting melodies; and "Molly's Chambers", whose bending, tuned-out bass riff casts something of a glance back to those other American heroes, Nirvana, speaks of a prowess ingrained from the band's infancy.

Stage-side screens pick out fleeting moments in black and white: the cream Cuban heels hovering over the distortion pedals, Matthew's rock-star grimace, Caleb's soulful urgency. Together, they scan like a series of iconic images of rock bands that you never get the chance to see.

And then the audience get their chance, thousands of faces flashed up for the glorious anthem "Fans". And as Nathan Followill rattles from above, Wembley Arena crackles, and not just with the sound of trouser seams splitting.

Comments