For some reason, Kiss’ lead demon Gene Simmons—one of music’s most bloated sacks of shit—has made it a point to whine repeatedly about how “rock is dead”. Maybe he’s just talking about his own relevancy because Royal Blood just played Columbus and all I can say is this: Gene Simmons, you can eat our ass.
The 1300 people crammed like sardines in the Newport Music Hall on Saturday were very much alive and ready to be mowed down by one of the hottest young bands on the planet, and the UK duo delivered in spades. From the thundering drum intro of show opener “Where Are You Now?”, they had the audience in the palm of their hands and they didn’t let go for the entirety of the hour long set.
With the release of their second album, How Did We Get So Dark, still six days away, the set was heavy with tracks from their 2014 self-titled breakthrough debut, much to the crowd’s delight. Singles like “Come On Over” and “Little Monster” (which featured a blistering drum solo soldered in the middle) had the crowd in a frenzy, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of the mesmerizing musicians onstage.
Royal Blood have found that crucial crux, held by heavy hitters like Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, in that they write unquestionably catchy and accessible songs that also rock like motherfuckers. This is a musician’s band, two undeniable players whose talent cannot be overstated, but the parts are tasteful and clean, not overwrought. The slinky syncopation and intricate riffing is jaw-dropping, but like any great artist in any medium, they understand how to use the negative space to their advantage. A pause in just the right spot can have ten times the impact of a killer riff, and the Blood have more than enough of both, in all the right spots.
The band let their monstrous songs, already powerful on record but somehow kicked up a notch in the live setting, do the majority of the talking. When singer/bassist Mike Kerr did speak it was just to announce, “It’s unbelievable that there are this many people here to see us!” Considering they played exactly two weeks before as direct opener to Guns n’ Roses in front of 82,000 at a castle in Scotland, and were heading to the Bonnaroo main stage the very next day, it may not have been truthful but the sentiment was appreciated.
While Kerr may not have mastered stage banter, he has essentially perfected a new instrument altogether. Playing bass as a lone melodic instrument is not entirely original, but the way he shreds the thing like a lead guitar, thick with distortion, is unlike any other player I’ve witnessed in person. He didn’t seem to miss a note the entire show, and just when I realized I’d been staring slack-jawed for a full five minutes, he dropped his picking arm and did it all with one hand, just because he could. Drummer Ben Thatcher is an absolute beast as well, throwing in bonus cowbell thuds and hi-hat flourishes with a third arm extending from his lower back. Or at least that’s how I remember it, but the room was getting pretty steamy so I could have been hallucinating.
This band has built it’s entire existence in the most rock & roll way possible, two friends writing amazing songs, touring their asses off, and proving themselves night after night. If you’re unfamiliar, “Figure It Out” and “Out of the Black” are as great of rock tracks as anything that has hit the radio waves in the last two decades, and if they had only come out and played those two, everyone could have gone home happy. Thankfully they didn’t and I really could go on about each of their song’s individual greatness, but I won’t. I will just highly encourage you to listen to their new album with frequency and catch them on tour if you can to witness for yourself that rock & roll is alive and well. That means you too, Gene Simmons, but you can still eat our ass either way.
Royal Blood- Newport Music Hall- 6/10/17
1. Where Are You Now?
2. Lights Out
3. Come On Over
4. I Only Lie When I Love You
5. Little Monster
6. Hook, Line, and Sinker
7. Blood Hands
8. Figure It Out
9. Better Strangers
10. Loose Change
11. Ten Tonne Skeleton
12. Out Of The Black