“We played last night, and honestly you guys are kicking their asses,” yells lead singer and bassist, Mike Kerr to a very amped-up crowd garbed in faded black classic rock tees. And it seemed like the crowd at Slim’s, attending the second of the two sold-out Royal Blood shows, was truly exhibiting the rock-and-roll hype that the band amassed.
Royal Blood, a bass and drum duo hailing from Brighton, England, formed in 2013 and since then has skyrocketed to fame, from opening for the Arctic Monkeys to winning for best British band in the 2015 Brit Awards. Taking cues from classic rock heroes such as Led Zeppelin and assimilating a Queens of the Stone Age-esque riff into their repertoire, Royal Blood has been taking the United Kingdom by storm, revitalizing the rock scene in ways that not even the band could imagine. Now, it’s conquering the United States.
The band members have set high expectations due to their highly esteemed debut album, the eponymous Royal Blood, and they have amassed a large celebrity following, including the likes of Jimmy Page and Matt Helders causing the pressure of performance to be much greater than other young bands. Yet for being a couple of nonassuming U.K. blokes, they command the stage very well, with Ben Thatcher climbing atop his drum throne every few songs, while Mike Kerr continues to wail on the bass dramatically. And they certainly do not disappoint in the entertainment factor.
Opening with “Come on Over,” Royal Blood immediately set the vibe for the gig: a very excitable and aggressive crowd singing along combined with the entertaining instrumentation of the band onstage.
Thatcher’s utilization of the bass, heavily filtered through octave pedals, causes there to be a full-bodied guitar sound emitting from a single instrument, making it sound as if there had to be more than just a bass and guitar onstage. The absolute volume of their heavy bluesy-rock sound amounts to a result that is far more powerful than a duo should be capable of producing.
The crowd was dotted with quite a few die-hard fans and classic rock heads, as well as a few musicians, such as Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. The mosh pit stretched through the center of the venue, with the audience’s limbs flailing alongside failed crowd surfing attempts by a few older gentlemen who really shouldn’t be attempting that sort of thing anymore.
As a shocking and very unpredictable surprise, self-proclaimed Royal Blood fan and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich emerged out of the black of the moshing crowd to play the drums on “Out of the Black,” the ultimate finale of the gig. At this point, Thatcher, who had been goading the audience by standing atop his amps, leaped into the mass of bodies to crowdsurf for a few short minutes, until he ultimately took the drums back over from Ulrich to close out the show.
Thatcher and Kerr aren’t particularly absorbed in putting on a performance, instead letting their music take the stage. They stood up onstage, blankly staring at the writhing crowd, then immediately launched into heartily performed jamming to rile the audience up.
Yet despite all of this, their live show managed to suffer from the same plight as their album: Each song sounds relatively the same, with an almost identical riff sped up or slowed down. There was no lack of enthusiasm, yet it seemed as if they were relying far too much on the mechanics of musicianship, causing their similar sound to blend one song into another.
Their lack of diversity in musical sound, however, could be overlooked because of their high entertainment factor — they played through the entirety of Royal Blood in a quick and punchy fashion, taking barely any time for to draw a single breath. Despite its musical shortcomings, Royal Blood certainly knows how to put on a show, and its live performance has exhibited the high standard of the heavy rock scene that it has come to fully embody.
Kayla Oldenburg covers music. Contact her at [email protected]