Kings of Leon LIVE @ St James’ Park, Newcastle 31.5.14

KINGS OF LEON get a bad rap these days. We all seem to have them pretty much sussed out and know the story from start to finish. 4 bearded weirdos from the back waters of god knows where show up releasing a series of increasingly good albums before tipping over into the mainstream and becoming the worst thing of all, a shit U2.

But that is not the full story really is it? Are the latter albums really that bad? A listen through latest offering ‘Mechanical Bull’ with open ears, would suggest otherwise. And can you really dismiss a band just because their latter output does match up to the heady heights of their early work? Yeah, we’ve all had a pop at Oasis, or a giggle at The Rolling Stones but that still doesn’t take away the fact they wrote fucking brilliant songs in the first place. Kings of Leon should be held in the same regards. Surely you can’t have a go at someone for blowing their load early, we’ve all been there.

With this in mind I headed over to St James’ Park to watch KoL play their second stadium gig in 3 years in the North East with a spring in my step. The fact  that I’d managed to worm my way into VIP bit for the gig didn’t half help the mood of things either and I felt very important indeed as the free ale and complementary sandwiches were doled out. Got to say at this point that the staff at St James’ were excellent and looked after Gigslutz wonderfully. Top work from Lee, Wendy and the crew.

With barely enough time to get stuck into the prawn sandwiches I made my way down to see openers Twin Atlantic. Walking on stage with little fan fare they took the bit by the teeth and kick off proceedings nicely. Their poppy grunge outpourings are tight and get an initially reluctant crowd going as well as can be expected in unseasonably hot Newcastle weather.

The Horrors follow and it’s perhaps a shame to see a band who have promised so much to be playing 3rd billing today. Things don’t get off to a good start with their swirling psychedelic noise getting lost in the vastness of the stadium whilst having to compete with a somewhat iffy sound system (more of that later). Not to be beaten the band pull it round and by the time they play ‘So Now You Know’ they have the crowd clapping as one. Ending on the epic ‘Still Life’ they leave to a hero’s applause.

On to the main event. If Kings of Leon aren’t cool anymore no one told the 30 odd thousand punters who wedge themselves in front of the stage. Given a rapturous welcome on entering the stage they set their stall out by opening with ‘Supersoaker’ from their most recent album. The gamble of playing a lesser known song pays off handsomely with the crowd lapping up the bravado. Any fears that KoL are going to focus on the new material are quickly dismissed as the opening chords of ‘Taper Jean Girl’ ring out. Following that up with ‘Fans’, ‘My Party’, ‘On Call’ and ‘The Bucket’ and before you know it everyone has fallen in love with the Deep South song smiths one more time.

Whilst the band are literally and metaphorically turning things up to 11 the speakers don’t seem overly keen on the whole idea. Audibly struggling during the hard notes on ‘My Party’ they pack in all together at one point leaving lead singer, Caleb, looking a bit pissed off.

Luckily the issue is resolved sharpest and the band crack on playing hit after swamp infested hit, finishing with the not too shabby final quart of ‘Knocked Up’, ‘Cold Desert’, ‘Be Somebody’ and ‘Use Somebody’.

After the customary few minutes off stage the band come back on for a quick encore, ending on the almost predictable ‘Sex On Fire’. Any cynicism that the song has courted over the years is forgotten as the crowds collective vocal chords get a sound work out.

Milking the well earned applause at the end the band seem overcome at the love they are receiving. An epic triumph surpassing most of those in the ground’s wildest expectations you can’t help but feel proud for them. Hopefully performances like this will cement Kings of Leon’s status as a fucking great rock and roll band and that, they rightly deserve.

If this is uncool I don’t want to be cool.

Chris Harvey