Kings of Leon @ various venues, CA Dates (3/28/05, 3/30/05, 04/05/05, 04/09/05)
It was the beginnings of Kings Of Leon. Some would say that it was before they became a completely different band (before the release of 2008’s Only By the Night). Half the KOL fans would argue that it was the END of good KOL. The other half will say it was the beginning of something more magical and focused. But in 2005, their sound was raw, unbridled, and undisciplined. And in 2005, their sound was rebellious and crazy energetic as well.
KOL had 2 EPs and 2 full length releases up to this point. They would spend the spring of 2005 opening for the global rock institution that is U2. I had only heard “King of the Rodeo” and “Four Kicks,” both of which completely baffled me, and not in a good way. But I was curious, and if U2 selected them to open their shows, they’ve got to have something special. So I got to hear KOL’s set on four occasions: twice in San Diego, once in LA, and the final occasion in San Jose – so you could think of this review as inclusive of all 4 dates.
The arena setting did not do KOL any favors or justice, not by any means, at least from my vantage point. The arenas seemed like big caverns, and this little group from Tennessee was trying to hold their own in front of thousands of fans that weren’t there for them. Caleb barely uttered a word onstage. They concentrated on their set and they were brave and determined. The band powered through their set each night, quickly flying through 40 minutes of energetic Southern alt-rock. Each cut was brief, sometimes clocking in just over two minutes. The songs were like concentrated doses of adrenaline, giving the audience brief but potent shots of energized rock, KOL style…and very unlike the anthemic slices of cinematic power pop they’re known for now.
During these shows, Caleb Followill’s vocals were so difficult to comprehend, and the quality did not improve over the 4 dates. There were times when I said to myself “I know the man is singing in English…but what’s he saying?” This was especially true during “Four Kicks.” But there was a quality to the voice that was unique. It was rough, but had this gruff bluesy tone to it, a soulfulness that sounded mournful and earnest. About the group and its playing ability, it was clear that they were a young group continuing to hone their musical abilities. The maturation over the next few releases would be evident. After these gigs I quickly forgot about Kings of Leon. And yes, the 2008 CD sparked my curiosity and I ended up liking a lot of those tracks. I may not have enjoyed it at the time, but I’m glad I got to see Kings of Leon before they broke in the US (or before they sold out…depending on your perspective).
The basic set was as follows with some variation:
Taper Jean Girl
Pistol of Fire
King of the Rodeo
Slow Night, So Long
Head to Toe