By Jake Paxton
Only once in a blood moon do two bands whom you really like tour together and work to put on one of the most incredible live rock shows. The energy was palpable throughout the entire audience as folks came out and packed the Marquee Theatre to see some good old-fashioned, no-bullshit rock and roll with no gimmicks, no backing tracks, just high octane fun.
With a little Muse, a lot of Queens of the Stone Age, and a hint of Tool, UK band Royal Blood has exploded out of the gate with their 2014 debut album simply called Royal Blood. The duo is consisted of bassist and vocalist Mike Kin and drummer Ben Thatcher, who apparently is also a cult phenomenon. They are supported by Mississippi lethargic garage rockers Bass Drum of Death, who are touring on their third LP, Rip This Album. It’s a strange and yet somehow perfect combination meshing Bass Drum of Death’s throwback vintage sound with Royal Blood’s modern prog.
After Bass Drum of Death finished thoroughly pumping the crowd up, the Royal Blood’s gear is set up on stage. The bassist having to fill the dynamic of bass and guitar simultaneously has an elaborate rig set up, consisting of multiple guitar amps and bass amps running together, all going through on-stage compressor towers. It is with this monstrosity that Kin’s bass is able to have such a crisp and punishing resonance that can compete with Thatcher’s highly aggression drumming.
The set opens up with one of their hit “Figure It Out”, and the crowd explodes in a frenzy. I find myself having just been standing idly about ten rows back to now being shoved forward like a sardine towards the stage. Kin is already egging on the crowd with a keen grasp of how to instigate audience participation. Everyone is clapping along with the bridge section and chanting the words.
About twenty minutes into their performance, I notice something a bit odd. A lot of people begin shouting “Ben! Ben! Ben!” at the stage. Thatcher, on drums, is just sitting there drinking out of a water bottle. This happens multiple times throughout the set, and I start to realize that this man, silent, without even a microphone, has generated somehow a mass cult following just for being the cool albeit silent partner. Before going into their song “Little Monster”, Kin introduces Thatcher to the audience, followed by a wild applause.
There were other memorable moments throughout the evening, such as a few songs before the end of their performance when Kin told the stagehands at the Marquee to “turn on all the lights so I can get a look at you”. All the lights then came on to another wild applause. This is truly a band you have to experience live, and the duo are master entertainers where it is clear that they really do love their jobs. I find myself a very new fan of the band before getting to the show, but now a dedicated fan after this performance.
Without saying that this would be their final song, the crowd seems to know. Many members of the crowd towards the front cram each other left or right to make room for a giant empty circle in the middle of the Marquee. Kin entices the crowd by hanging off of the edge on each side off the crowd while the lights illuminate the part of the crowd. A semi-open jam leads perfectly into the opening of “Out of the Black”, a song they have a reputation of closing with and the crowd explodes into a mosh pit where the empty circle was. I find myself regretting wearing my “going out” shoes as they are promptly stomped on by no less than a hundred people within the length of a song. The voices of the crowd explode like a cannon to sing along with the chorus of “Out of the Black”, and it is clear that the energy has reached its apex. The group tease the audience at the very end when the bassists suddenly goes into the riff for Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” instead of the normal end to the song, playing that for a minute or two in a dropped tuning, creating a very doomy atmosphere. The song, which recorded is about four minutes, goes on for about ten minutes total with all the build-up, throwbacks and spur of the moment jamming. Then, as quickly as it began, it was over. There was understandably no encore, as their entire catalog of music runs about fifty minutes.
All in all, it was a stellar night of music. Royal Blood puts on an amazing show without messing up at all, while still managing to use the entire stage with just two members. I hope to see them again, and know that they will most likely come back touring their next album; however, next time I’ll probably be seeing them at Comerica Theatre or possibly even US Airways Center. Their sound is that big.