Saturday, 28 June 2014

Kings of Leon - Ziggo Dome, 2 June 2014

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the Kings of Leon have become a really big band. Almost shockingly big. And partly because of this, and partly because of the changes in their sound over the years, they are a band that divide many fans.

Signing up to see them play to 17,000 people at the Ziggo Dome, I could feel this divide in my own expectations.

Part of me couldn’t help but reminisce about my early KoL experiences. My love of their first two albums and the brilliance of the first time I saw them live, at the New York Town Hall in 2005, playing to a capacity crowd of 1,500 very excited kids. It would be easy to sit back and say they have sold out or that you cannot compare an arena show with a relatively intimate show at a really cool venue.

But part of me also loved Only by the Night, which was no doubt the album that launched them into superstardom. Sure it didn’t have that rock edge that the first couple of albums did, but there were still some great catchy songs on there

I struggled with the next couple of albums but there was still enough there to join the less than 17,000 people at the Ziggo Done (as this did not sell out in the end) on a Monday night, to see what they had to offer. We found a nice position on the dance floor with a relatively good view of what would be a true show, in every sense of the word.

The band came out strong with Supersoaker and Taper Jeans Girl back to back, almost without stopping between songs and this would set the pace for the night, with barely a word spoken to the crowd they pumped through over 20 songs in the main set. Sadly only Molly’s Chamber got a run from their debut album, but rest of the set was reasonably well spread across their other 5 albums. This included 4 cracking songs from Aha Shake Heartbreak, although one of them was not Milk, much to the disappointment of my partner in crime.

It was interesting to see the crowd really get into a couple of the songs from Come Around Sundown, songs I barely recognized let alone knew the words. The show itself had come a long way since my first experience in New York

Long gone were the sweaty beards and on stage energy. This show was a slick production with a pretty amazing light show and projection screen showing the band and various other images. It was clear that these guys knew how to play to an Arena.

The star album is still clearly Only by the Night, with 5 of the final 6 songs coming from that one album. Predictably Use Somebody finished the main set, and then Sex on Fire finished the 3 song encore and the crowd went nuts for them both. They do what they do well and their fans seemed to love it.

Even after being well entertained for the evening I still found myself divided on what I thought of the show, especially compared to what I had previously experienced. And this raised the question, why is it that we don’t wish too much success to our ‘Indie’ artists? 

If one of my friends was to succeed in business and make lots of money I would be happy for them. Sports stars are measured almost exclusively on how high their world ranking is and how much prize money they make. But when we love a new band we only wish partial success on them – we want them to be big enough that they count and have a following but small enough that they are somehow still ours.

I don't know the answer to the question, but when I walked away from the show I had convinced myself that I should be happy for them and the fact that a band I had loved had done so well. Maybe the new songs aren’t really my style, but who am I to hold it against anyone if that’s what you need to do to sell albums and play arena’s?

This thought lasted for exactly two weeks, at which time I returned to the same venue, this time to see Pearly Jam play their first of two sold out nights there.

There was a similarity between the bands in that I like their first few albums more than the newer once, but for completely different reasons. If anything Pearl Jam have become less commercial over time, putting out critically acclaimed albums that their fans adore and they seem to enjoy playing. And under this model they sold more than twice as many tickets to the show, which interesting lasted almost twice as long and had barely any of the light show or tricks that KoL.

Which one was better? Pearl Jam, without even a shadow of a doubt.

So justify it all you like, but the Kings of Leon sold out and the fact is you don’t need to make these kind of albums to find big success if that is what you are looking for. Pearl Jam made them look like a tacky pop band, which is really sad when you think back where they started.


Photo's courtesy of the Ziggo Dome facebook page (Michel Utrecht)

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