Kings of Leon have a back story so picturesque it raises suspicions. They’re made up of three brothers with names such as Caleb and Jared who grew up with their alcoholic preacher-father travelling around the American south. Weaned on the holy writ and southern rock, they recruited a cousin to play lead guitar and formed a band whose image fell midway between Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Strokes.
Not even the most calculating svengali could dream up a better background. But Kings of Leon have proved to be a triumph of substance over style. With two fine albums under their belt and a third due in April, they’ve shown themselves to be a cut above numerous other hyped indie-rock groups. They have stamina, appetite and inspiration: far more valuable attributes in the long run than an exotic back story.
Like the best bands, they are as tight and sure of each other as a gang. This concert was impressively taut, the quartet whistling through 18 songs in just over an hour, combining the elasticity of boogie-rock with the brevity of garage-rock, topped off with Caleb Followhill’s indecipherable but impassioned vocals.
Their new album Because of the Times is more of a grower than its predecessors, although the songs they debuted slid easily into a setlist that was generously stocked with crowd-pleasing favourites.
“Arizona”, an evocative ballad, and the anthemic “On Call” suggested that their stints supporting U2 and the Rolling Stones on tour have taught them to see songs in widescreen, though not at the cost of self-indulgence. “Charmer”, a Pixies-influenced number featuring screamed vocals and slicing guitars, showed that they had not lost their ferocity. “Fans” performed an intricate but disciplined take on southern rock, the tempo ebbing and flowing confidently. A rarity in today’s impatient, febrile musical climate, this is a band that gets better with time.
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