Dark skies punctuated by neon stadium floodlights. Fog machine and cigarette smoke finding pleasurable company in the perfect October air. Headbangers and “Rock On” horns. Pulsating amplifiers and a kick-drum heart. The crowd is alive and so is the music.
Royal Blood and Queens Of The Stone Age played at the Crossroads KC on October 13, providing the perfect beginning to the Halloween season. Royal Blood jumped from across the pond to open for the domestic act QOTSA. Both share a similar affinity for mood lighting, guitar feedback, and bone hard rock n’ roll.
I’ve been waiting for either of these acts to come to KC ever since I first heard their music. I missed the chance for Royal Blood in 2015, and Queens haven’t been to KC in about a decade or so. As frontman Josh Homme said at the concert, “I was arrested here as a kid, so I’ve generally avoided this area for a while. But now, I love it. Everybody’s got a beard here.”
Royal Blood acted as a sonic hors d’oeuvres, whetting the crowd’s appetite with a sparse sampling. They’re a two-person band, comprising only of a bass guitar (plugged into many types of effects and distortions) and a drumkit. Their energy and enthusiasm was recognizable and immediate, perfectly complementing their dark, albeit radio-friendly, rock. They were light on quips and one-liners, but were able to effectively get the audience on their feet. They played through some of their new singles, such as Lights Out and I Only Lie When I Love You, but also dug into their first album for hits such as Figure It Out and Out Of The Black.
Royal Blood is currently touring to promote their second and newest album, How Did We Get So Dark? They definitely have a lot to prove, as they’ve dominated the rock charts for the past couple of years and are getting their name out in America as a force to watch. With just two instruments (and vocals) they are able to distort the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and The White Stripes into something instantly British, and instantly classic. Influences, such as the aforementioned artists, are clear, but no other band has as clear an effect on Royal Blood’s sound as the main act – Queens Of The Stone Age.
Queens Of The Stone Age proved an admirable main act, if not entirely deserving of such an opener as Royal Blood. They played competently and had an indelible spirit, but seemed somewhat reluctant to take stage. For a band that’s twenty years old, I can certainly imagine the touring lifestyle taking a repetitive role in the life-span of a band. That said, relatively new additions to the band, such as drummer Jon Theodore and bassist Mikey Schuman, came to match much of the energy and enthusiasm Royal Blood had earlier exhibited. The camaraderie between band members was also clear, with the other four members smiling at frontman Josh Homme’s strange antics. Homme told multiple puns during the show, and in an encore finale, climbed onto the drums and knocked over the cymbals.
Queens setlist was much more focused on their recently released album Villains. This proved to be a personal advantage, as I was hoping they’d play some of their new tunes. Additionally, I was unexpectedly won over on some of their stinkers on the new album. I initially found the songs Domesticated Animals and Villains of Circumstance somewhat underwhelming on the album. However, in a live setting, these tunes really came alive. Very few older hits were played, but those that were absolutely hit the mark. When an older song, such as No One Knows, played its first notes, it seemed like a fun machine exploded.
I’ll definitely see both acts again as soon as I can, and look forward to Royal Blood owning their own show someday.
By: Jackson Wright
Photos by: Reema Shah of ReviewStl.com