This past Tuesday, I plunged into The Observatory North Park and found myself in a a crowd of weeknight warriors waiting eagerly for Royal Blood.
This Jimmy Page-approved British duo arrived on the shores of America to combine and conquer and give their second album How Did We Get So Dark? some time in the spotlight. Royal Blood have made their name by re-engineering rock tradition, building on what musicians like Page, Jack White, Jesse F. Keeler, and Josh Homme made possible with their groundbreaking work. The result is a take on the blues, merged with the fearless attitude of hard rock, and the low-frequency abuse of doom metal. This simple yet bombastic sound has been sharpened to a fine point over four years spent slaying festivals and touring the world. The energy in the room read “bring it on,” and Royal Blood did just that.
Frontman Mike Kerr gave us all the visceral vocal attack and octave-pedal riffs we could handle. Bandmate Ben Thatcher proceeded to obliterate a near 10-piece kit like he was the illegitimate son of John Bonham and Neil Peart. The gruesome, sexualized attack of “Lights Out,” “Figure it Out,” and “Loose Change” gave the diverse crowd a proper fix of classic rock-inspired showmanship and pounding dynamics. For “Hole in Your Heart,” Kerr whipped out a vintage Rhodes keyboard and demonstrated some serious chops, switching back to his bass without missing a step. It seemed no matter the instrument, these two wouldn’t be satisfied until it sounded like a snarling animal let loose from its cage. A sleek and cleverly coordinated row of light beams adorned in red and white gave the show an extra aesthetic boost. With only two members onstage, these guys have had to develop an electrifying rapport, and their bold, take-no-prisoners attitude showed through in spades.
Royal Blood were doing battle against a crowd that seemed a little pent up and restless until prompted directly by Kerr to participate. With a little push, the capacity crowd responded in kind with a deafening display of idolatry. The harder Kerr dug into his effervescent bass licks, Thatcher would respond with a gargantuan fill, and the crowd got steadily louder and more unhinged. Their swirling mass of fans even hoisted an ecstatic young man all the way up onstage to meet his heroes after a crowd surfing journey for the record books.
The no-frills approach the band carried made for a concise, impactful set that covered most of their landmark songs in just over an hour. Royal Blood were on a mission to convey an intensity only vaguely alluded to by many modern rock acts and they wouldn’t stop until all hell broke loose. Long may they riff.