It’s easy to be cynical about the current state of “live” music in an era of pre-recorded tracks and lip-synching artists. But the Kings of Leon proved that rock and roll is alive and extremely well, thank you very much, with a scintillating and booming performance at the Bank United Center on the University of Miami’s campus May 8.
Hardcore fans will tell you there is no better live-performing band and it would be difficult to argue with that based on the searing, driving show that kept the crowd standing for the entire one hour and forty five minutes in Coral Gables, Florida. There were moments, especially during an out-of-their-heads rendition of Molly’s Chamber, when the band crossed into the territory of legendary performances by The Who, Led Zeppelin & Eric Clapton.
Caleb Followill and his two brothers, Jared on bass, Nathan on drums, are joined by their cousin, lead guitarist Mathew Followill. They’ve spent a lot of time on the road and it shows. This is a band that has learned its craft well, and even the minimal stage affectation of flashing lights (not present in other shows we’ve seen) were an unnecessary distraction from their bone-rattling, perfectly in sync performance.
Lead singer and guitarist Caleb offered no banter and barely moved from his center stage position for the first half of the show as the Kings delivered one explosive number after another. Reaching across all their albums and also promoting their latest, Only By The Night, they delivered crowd-pleasing renditions of Taper Jean Girl and The Bucket that weren’t mere replicas of the recorded versions, but instead showed this is a band that, simply put, can take it to a different level performing live.
When Caleb finally paused to talk to the crowd he gave the impression he wasn’t feeling well, saying "It doesn't matter where you are, if you're human, you're gonna have those nights where you just don't think you can do it. Then you walk onstage. I was having one of those nights, but you've been so great, so thank you very much.'' And in truth, the band has had better nights, which is remarkable considering the power and electricity they delivered to a crowd of approximately 7,000 people who recognized every song by the first few notes.
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Black Thumbnail, one of several songs from Because of the Times, brought a roar, with Caleb’s unique voice perfectly hovering above the instruments. Predictably the crowd reacted instantly to the hit Sex on Fire, which was delivered with confidence and heart-pounding power. Use Somebody, another hit from the new album was as polished as if the band had been playing it for years, but also raw and edgy. (Are the Kings of Leon too early in their career to consider releasing a live album?)
Mathew Followill’s lead guitar contributes as much to the unique sound as Caleb’s vocals and there are moments, like during the encore rendition of Knocked Up, where Mathew displayed finesse and let the vocals carry the song. But for most of the night he simply torched the arena with driving riffs that carried songs like My Party to another level.
This is a band that once-upon-a-time opened for U2 and Bob Dylan. The University of Miami performance showed the one-time opening act has now taken the step up into rock and roll stardom.