WHO: Royal Blood
WHERE: Newport Music Hall
WHEN: June 4, 2015
If you haven’t heard anything from Royal Blood, do yourself a favor. Go to YouTube and find something of theirs to listen to. I know, right? It’s hard to believe that only two people can create that massive wall of sound. Formed in Worthing, England, by bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher in 2013, Royal Blood barn-stormed the music scene with the release of their first single, Out of the Black, in November of the same year and their meteoric rise continued with the release of the Out of the Black EP and their self-titled album in August of 2014. Royal Blood was nominated for Britain’s Mercury Award in 2014 and most recently took home the 2015 Brit Award for Best British Group. The sound of their bluesy hard-hitting rock speaks for itself and since that time they have opened for Arctic Monkeys and Foo Fighters along with headlining their own tours of the UK, Europe, and the United States.
A friend of mine introduced me to them late in 2013 and I saw them twice last year – once in Columbus, Ohio, and again in Cincinnati, Ohio, several weeks later. Both venues very small and I am guessing that many of the people at both shows had no idea who they were. While they were musically sound, Kerr did not look at all comfortable with his position as front man. He seemed rooted to the floor and reluctant to interact with the crowd. Thatcher was comfortable to hang behind his kit and stand to look out over the crowd every now and then. Having seen them before and knowing how quickly they’ve risen, I was interested to see how much they had changed between then and now.
Mini Mansions was a good choice for an opening act and seemed to be a popular choice for the crowd. Composed of Zack Dawes, Tyler Parkford, and Michael Shuman, Mini Mansions played a tight set of electronic/psychedelic rock, including a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” This was my first time hearing them and I was surprised in a pleasant way as I was somewhat expecting a heavier influence from Shuman, who is the bassist for Queens of the Stone Age.
When Royal Blood took the stage to a rousing welcome from the sold-out crowd, it was clear from the start that this was NOT the Royal Blood I saw last year. Kerr was noticeably more confident and comfortable in his skin and was happy to interact with the crowd. He owned the stage, working one side to the other and brought warm laughter from the crowd when he introduced Thatcher as “the rest of the band.” I was worried about the set list – there is only so much you can do with the same songs that you’ve been playing for the last year – but they didn’t sound tired. Beginning with Come on Over and continuing, each song sounded as hard and tight as last year, and the crowd was as rowdy and raunchy as the music. There was a nice addition to the set-list with the introduction of B-side One-Trick Pony. The set ended with a raucous crowd-surfing expedition by Thatcher.
In terms of where Royal Blood goes from here, their biggest crowd to date will be opening for Foo Fighters at massive Wembley Stadium in London later this month. How they handle a sold-out crowd of 90,000 in their home country will have a bearing on where they go from here. On a personal note, I have noticed that there is little difference in sound from one song to another; sometimes I can’t tell one from the other. I’d like to see a bit more of a change-up in that area on the next album. Yes, they’ve risen fast and they have no place to go but up from here. Here’s hoping their sophomore record takes them up that next step.
* The above article was written and pictures taken by new GATRS Tara. Be on the look out for more from her in the coming weeks. Also, don’t be shy stop by and tell her Hey!
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