Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Kings of Leon concert review: Los Angeles

photo: Kelly Swift
Before Kings of Leon took the stage for a sold out show at The Forum last Saturday, the sight and sound of a beating heart projected on two screens signaled their arrival.

If anyone measured the Nashville-based rock band’s career pulse, it would be considered strong by most accounts.

Last fall, seventh album “WALLS” - an acronym for We Are Like Love Songs - debuted atop the Billboard 200 (a career first). Meanwhile, “Waste a Moment” reached No. 1 at alternative, rock and AAA radio. The single still crowns the latter format chart after three months.

Working with new producer Markus Dravs (known for his work with Arcade Fire, Florence+the Machine and Coldplay) on “WALLS” rejuvenated KoL. California had a subtle influence too: the Followill brothers and their cousin recorded in LA after the previous four releases were done elsewhere; the state and West Hollywood are even name checked in a couple lyrics.

Obscured by dark lighting, Kings of Leon kicked off the 100-minute, 25-song concert in Inglewood, Calif. with a moody “The End,” off 2010’s “Come Around Sundown.” It was driven by Matthew’s always captivating reverb guitar squalls. Then the band went straight into “Slow Night, So Long,” with Jared’s nimble basslines leading the charge.

photo: Kelly Swift
As usual, front man Caleb (pictured left) basically let the music do the talking throughout the evening. Poignant, laid-back ballad “Muchacho” - inspired by the group’s late art director - featured some whistling and felt like a breath of fresh air. The first of eight selections played from “WALLS,” it went over well with fans who sang along and cheered loudly to old and new tunes alike.

Quick mid-2000s U.K. hits like the Southern style chugging rocker “Molly’s Chambers,” a chiming “The Bucket” and frantic “Four Kicks” were pure rushes of adrenaline. But the more nuanced recent material proved equally strong. A jaunty “Eyes on You” was heightened by auxiliary musician Liam O’Neil’s synth washes and a soaring end chant. The haunting, six-minute-long “Over,” about a rock star suicide, saw Caleb veer from monotone to anguished emotional singing as a gothic soundscape whirred behind him.

Kings of Leon did big hit “Sex on Fire” earlier in the set than past tours and the general admission pit section went crazy. Then a red curtain closed for a fine acoustic-based segment. Caleb appeared alone for spiritual-tinged “The Runner.” He was rejoined by the guys on an earthy “Comeback Story,” which was an excellent display of their harmonies. 

Speaking of backing vocals, drummer Nathan, sidelined by pneumonia last week that caused two shows to be postponed, seemed no worse for wear. On the title track to the contemplative “Walls,” Caleb played acoustic guitar to a drum machine before the other members came in for a dynamic finish.

photo: Kelly Swift
Elsewhere, Kings of Leon blazed through “Find Me” and “Radioactive” with abandon and the spacey atmospheric textures of “On Call” and “Closer” were totally riveting.

The mildly political “Crawl,” from 2008 (key lyric: “the reds and whites and abused/the crucified USA/as their hypocrisy unfolds/hell is truly on its way), had old school punk rock iconography on the screens and suddenly took on new meaning in today’s world.

For the final stretch, the driving “Supersoaker” and majestic “Use Somebody” saw the band forgo an encore and finish the night on a high note. 

A version of my review originally appeared at

Upcoming tour dates:

Fri, April 28
Chula Vista, CA
Sleep Train Amphitheatre
Sat, April 29
Phoenix, AZ
Ak-Chin Pavilion
Tue, May 2
The Woodlands, TX
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Thu, May 4
Dallas, TX
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Sun, May 7
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Tue, May 9
Austin, TX
Austin 360 Amphitheater
Thu, May 11
Atlanta, GA
Aaarons Amphitheatre
Wed, May 17
Raleigh, NC
Coastal Credit Union Music Park  
Fri, May 19
Virginia Beach, VA
Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheatre
Sat, May 20
Holmdel, NJ
PNC Bank Arts Center
Wed, July 26
Saratoga Springs, NY
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Fri, July 28
Mansfield, MA
Xfinity Center
Sat, July 29
Uncasville, CT
Mohegan Sun
Tues, Aug 1
Wantagh, NY
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Wed, Aug 2
Darien Center, NY
Darien Lake PAC
Sat, Aug 5
Syracuse, NY
Lakeview Amphitheater
Sun, Aug 6
Bethel, NY
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Wed, Aug 9
Toronto, ON
Budweiser Stage
Fri, Aug 11
Cincinnati, OH
Riverbend Music Center
Mon, Aug 14
Clarkston, MI
DTE Energy Music Theatre
Wed, Aug 16
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Blossom Music Center
Fri, Aug 18
Burgettstown, PA
KeyBank Pavilion
Sat, Aug 19
Noblesville, IN
Klipsch Music Center
Thurs, Aug 24
Mountain View, CA
Shoreline Amphitheatre
Sat, Aug 26
Quincy, WA
The Gorge Amphitheatre

No comments: