Royal Blood | The Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA) | September 29, 2014 |
The Brighton, UK gents Michael Kerr (vox, bass), Ben Thatcher (drums), the ball cap and leather jacket now widely known as Royal Blood have a pretty good thing going here in Los Angeles. Since their rather meteoric rise across the pond after a mere two years in existence, they’ve played all of two shows in the City of Angels. Two. Kerr and Thatcher first introduced themselves to LA at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip in May with a sold out show where a slam circle erupted by song #3. The Troubadour received much the same treatment (especially the all-important ‘sold out’ part) in a room heavy with anticipation for the blunt force deliverables that the power duo has become notorious for.
And a power duo is essentially what Royal Blood are: two guys slinging sonic Led Zeppelin-esque licks, riffs, tempos and temptations indebted to the formula of simple instruments amped and modulated by not-so-simple technology. Kerr’s pedal board is a thing of intrigue (so much so that photographs of it were discouraged) with its effects pedals that jolt his bass guitars into octave monsters, fattening up their fuzzy bass tones and sharply mimicking their six-string cousins with a frightening clarity on their self-titled debut album. But how did this stuff play out live?
Guess what, folks? Royal Blood are loud and full of bass: At the Roxy things got to the point where it felt like internals organs were relocated. So it’s highly recommended that you don’t go to a Royal Blood show without earplugs. Of course, for the obvious reason of preserving your hearing for future use but also because they’re a filter and, without them, you just might miss what lies beneath all of that British crush. The 10-song set was fairly fast and furious but there was a wealth of melody-play and wicked subtlety within Kerr’s shredding and manipulation. Yes “Better Strangers” still slinks like a borrow from Band of Skulls but it’s as quality (and reasonable) a borrow as the White Stripes-channeling in “Loose Change.” And where songs like “Out Of The Black” and “Ten Tonne Skeleton” lurched and stomped, one of the best displays of Kerr’s fret-play came with “Figure It Out” where half the fun was in watching his hands work his instrument. Apologies if that sounds dirty but it’s perfectly on point.
As Kerr’s partner in the mayhem, Thatcher is a beast behind the kit (the intelligent kind not prone to overplaying) with a primal aggression so controlled that it’s almost elegant, much of which is due to his superb timing. The beauty is in the sheer heft of Royal Blood’s stoned out blues/rock and its impact even if the entirety of the set was under 60 minutes…and yes, this was a headlining show. But they’ve only one album under their belt and the current touring of that album is their performance proving ground, therefore such brevity is acceptable/forgivable at this point in their career. Both players were short on conversation, mainly keeping to the music business at hand although Thatcher did, momentarily, leave his throne to climb the scaffolding above the crowd just because he could (a drummer’s gotta stretch, folks). Considering the sing-a-longs (the wholesome “I’ve got love on my fingers / lust on my tongue” seemed a lyrical crowd favorite), the moshing (which I was in the middle of) and the airborne fists, it’s a given that the Troubadour’s occupants (which included Muses’ Dominic Howard and Matthew Bellamy) appreciated all the rock and the rumble that Royal Blood had to offer.