My review originally appeared at ocregister.com
Last time Kings of Leon played the Forum, they were still riding high from the double-platinum success of Only by the Night and three chart-topping alternative rock singles. The resulting concert was electrifying.
Flash-forward 41/2 years and a lot has changed: Most of the Tennessee
band is married with children, and the venerable Inglewood venue has
undergone a major overhaul.
The band’s sixth studio release Mechanical Bull
reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 upon release last September but
didn’t sell like gangbusters, though it spawned three more Top 20
Some among Friday’s crowd obviously hadn’t heard about the media
blitz or the Eagles’ extended run accompanying the arena’s reopening in
January. A pair of clueless (or possibly inebriated) young ladies at the
box office asked whether seating was indoors or outdoors.
Local Natives definitely knew about the Forum’s history. At one point
during their rapturous 45-minute opening set, co-vocalist/guitarist
Taylor Rice said, “I can feel the Lakers' presence here.”
The well-attended show was the Followill family’s first full-length
local performance to promote the new effort, and before it began, fuzzy,
multicolored lights like the album’s artwork were projected on a
translucent scrim that covered the stage. Then the band appeared in
shadow behind it, launching the solid 27-song, nearly two-hour
performance in strange fashion with “Charmer,” off 2007’s Because of the Times.
Hardly one of the most memorable tracks in the group’s catalog, it
finds frontman Caleb Followill (pictured, above) basically shrieking to a brawny riff.
Horror images were projected on a large LED backdrop during it, the
first of several intriguing visuals this night.
A laid-back ’70s vibe characterized “Rock City,” the first of eight Mechanical
selections, as Caleb sang about a guy comfortable enough to admit he
can “shake it like a woman,” a stark contrast to these musicians’ more
Bassist Jered Followill (pictured, left) led the bump-and-grind groove of
“My Party,” and the evening’s first highlight came from the driving,
pop-inflected “Temple,” for which drummer Nathan Followill and an
auxiliary player added soaring backing vocals.
The spacey “On Call” and “Closer” were captivating as usual; lead
guitarist Matthew Followill was in fine form while plying
reverb-drenched effects, and fans sang along loudly. The sexually
charged “Family Tree” provided yet another slinky groove and gang
Taking a slight breather, Caleb noted the band was glad to be back in
California after playing freezing-cold states since the U.S. tour
launched last month. Then he strapped on an acoustic guitar for the
inviting folk ballad “Back Down South.”
It worked so well that they
should have tackled the latest album’s simmering standout “Beautiful
War” and “Last Mile Home,” featured in the Oscar-nominated film August: Osage County.
Later, the stomping “Supersoaker” proved a melodic delight live, and
retro R-rated burlesque clips on the backdrop were quite a surprise.
Before “Radioactive,” Caleb recalled the group’s first trip here and
thanked fans for their support: “We saw all the beautiful people and
sunshine. We all had long hair; I’d like to have some of it back again.
We never thought we’d come so far and it’s because of you.” The tune’s
circuitous guitar riffs, alongside Nathan’s backing harmonies, made for
another high point.
Despite some dubious lyrics, the tour premiere of the rustic
“Comeback Story,” complete with equally beautiful screen imagery, was a
welcome addition. The atmospheric “Cold Desert” (slow-falling confetti
and the Forum’s sparkling new roof lights combined for a perfect effect)
and the majestic upward thrust of “Use Somebody” capped the main set –
and by the time KoL got to big hit “Sex on Fire,” the whole place was
singing along loudly.
In its Forum debut, Local Natives seamlessly translated the dense, enchanting sounds from last year’s impressive Hummingbird
to a large space. No surprise there: The hard-working, O.C.-reared but
L.A.-based indie rock act played 188 shows last year. A seemingly odd
choice for warm-up, they still received an enthusiastic response.
At Coachella last April, I’d only heard one captivating song from the
guys before having to dash to another stage to see Sparks. I wasn’t disappointed by
this expanded dose: “World News” got things off to a high-flying start;
cascading guitars on “You & I” and a heavenly falsetto from
co-vocalist/keyboardist/percussionist Kelcey Ayer recalled Sigur Rós;
“Wide Eyes” was an intense rhythmic workout.
Earlier that day, Ayer saw a big concert shot of Coldplay backstage
and was reminded of his deceased mother, who was a fan. He dedicated a
song to her: “I feel she’d be pretty stoked that we’re here.”
The angular, Foals-esque “Breakers” made a strong impression, and a
small group of fans up front serenaded guitarist Ryan Hahn for his
Rice (pictured, left) also thanked family members in attendance who “let us
play way too loud for years in their garages” prior to the anthemic “Who
Knows Who Cares.”
Finally, the darkly-hued “Sun Hands” featured a group
chant and a maelstrom of sound for a compelling, spastic finish.
Kings of Leon
Main set: Charmer / Rock City / My Party / Temple / On Call /
Family Tree / Closer / The Immortals / Back Down South / Wait for Me /
Supersoaker / Milk / Pyro / Tonight / Radioactive / The Bucket / Don’t
Matter / Molly’s Chambers / Four Kicks / Be Somebody / Notion / Comeback
Story / Cold Desert / Use Somebody
Encore: Crawl / Black Thumbnail / Sex on Fire
Photos by Armando Brown