Kings of Leon
Orlando, FL • August 15, 2005
“Nashville’s Kings of Leon to tour with Secret Machines and The Helio Sequence.” A southern rock nostalgic outfit, a psychedelic indie noise trio, and an airy experimental duo performing for the same audience night after night. It’s not a match made in rock ‘n’ roll heaven, but maybe it’ll all come together and make sense after a couple of beers.
After a whirlwind set by SubPop’s The Helio Sequence, a set I missed the first half of thanks to the notoriously slow hands of the WillCall Gods in the House of Blues box office, the Secret Machines stepped out. They opened with their catchiest song, ” Nowhere Again ,” and then slowly backslid into a psychedelic noise fest that circled around “interesting,” ( like when they did a cover of Dylan’s “Girl from North Country”) but never quite found a home there. Their indie noise rock was similar to Autolux, but with a lead singer who only stood from his keyboard to occassionally play bass — while still standing behind his keyboards. Guitarist Branson Curtis attempted to elevate the otherwise tedious explorations of sound but looked unsure of his position onstage as he continuously looked to his brother (singer Benjamin Curtis) for… what? Cues, reassurance? The real problem with this trio from Texas was not the music, but the length of their set which topped out at 70 minutes. By the last note, I had a brain-numbing migraine that hindered my ability to enjoy the night’s headliners.
With blurred vision and a pick-axe beating away at my brain, I settled in for Kings of Leon. The boys of Kings were either really stoned, or really concentrated. It was as if their feet had been nailed to the floor leaving them virtual immobile. They each stayed on their marks with vacant eyes looking out over the crowd, yet somehow still managed to capture the same broad classic rock sound of their two albums. Lead singer/guitarst Caleb looked the part of a southern ’70s rocker, wearing his three-sizes-too-tight jeans, and a loose Conway Twitty tank top that accentuated his expansive shoulders and body builder veins, but failed to bridge the gap between artist and audience.
From the opening number — “Molly’s Chambers” — they sounded fantastic. Filling most of their set with songs off their sophomore release Aha Shake Heartbreak, the substantial audience bounced along to every number and sang the band’s praises. It’s too bad the audience seemed to have more energy than the band. Here’s my thing: I would rather see a band give a passionate, energetic performance and hit some wrong notes than see a static band that sounds incredible. Live performance should not be just about the music, ’cause that itch can be scratched by listening to the CD at home. When I see a band live I want the blood, the sweat, the spit. I want to feel the heart of the band. Otherwise, why bother going to a show?
Kings of Leon have been touring without pause since the surprise success of their debut album, Youth and Young Manhood. They opened for U2 across the states and Europe, they have been playing all the big festivals, they been doing the late night talk shows — maybe these guys are just burning themselves out. Keeping this in mind, I checked out the rest of their set waiting to hear “California Waiting,” and “Spiral Staircase,” before heading home to nurse my headache. I’ll catch them another time after they’ve taken a break from touring and can put on the kind of show I’m sure their capable of.
Kings of Leon: www.kingsofleon.com