Mike Kerr of Royal Blood at the 9:30 Club on June 10 (Photo by Katerine Gaines/AmbientEye Photography)
Royal Blood are loud. Improbably so, considering it consists of only two members — bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher.
Mike’s vocals recall the spirit of 70s hard rock bands that inspired them, most notably Led Zeppelin, and Mike and Ben’s powerful instruments echo sounds from 90s grunge bands, notably Nirvana.
I realize that I’m repeating things that Jimmy Page and Dave Grohl themselves have said here, but the duo’s top song “Out of the Black” speaks its own case in volumes. At a sold-out show at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, June 10, Royal Blood closed an all too brief 11-song set with the number, thundering their way into the hearts of the excited crowd.
People came to rock out, and Royal Blood gave them that opportunity. “Out of the Black” deals lyrically with a classic theme of the surprise of being rejected by a lover and as a result, “It broke your skin and shook through/Every part of me, every part of you.” In that way, Royal Blood follow in the footsteps of grunge bands who were always eager to sing about the negative emotions in their lives.
But Royal Blood aren’t here to wind down their statements into an empty cacophony of strings and drums. Rather, they are here to rock.
Mike wears his bass like it’s a part of him, and he focuses his intensity downward into his instrument. Ben is a rhythmic monster. Neither one of them are concerned about telling you about their feelings, really. They are more interested in making a sound that fills stadiums.
Watch Royal Blood performing Out Of The Black in a Kerrang! Live Session from September 2014:
Earlier in the set, Royal Blood performed “Figure It Out,” another selection from their self-titled debut album, released in August 2014. Lyrically, the song is a bit more forward-looking than “Out of the Black,” as the narrator seeks to “figure out” his relationship with a woman. In performance, Mike and Ben are much more open when they play this song. Mike opens his body up a bit more to the audience and to Ben. Ben’s arms are continually in fluid motion as he rains down percussive smacks.
In the kinetic parlance of live performance, the song translates into an instant classic rock staple.
Watch Royal Blood perform “Figure It Out” live at T in the Park in July 2014, courtesy of BBC:
Honestly, however, I’ve never really tackled a concert review from a perspective of classic rock history. Given the sheer number of concerts I’ve seen in the past five years, I personally may be in a better position to look at right now, and where does Royal Blood fit in with the bands playing right now? Well, to my ear, the U.K. duo have a lot in common with their countrymen Muse. Although Muse embraces a more glam-prog approach to its songcraft, both bands have an ear for anthems and a desire to make a sound too big to be contained by conventional performance spaces. Moreover, Mike and Muse frontman Matthew Bellamy sound quite similar vocally on occasion.
And the hard rockin’ Royal Blood also remind me quite a bit of a very different band — Brooklyn’s Sleigh Bells. Sleigh Bells are the only other band I’ve seen that can put two people in front of a stack of speakers that dominate the stage and then make such wonderfully thrashy dancable noise. Again, the noise pop Americans are a different animal than Royal Blood, but I do see quite a few similarities in their approach to producing guitar-driven jams.
Royal Blood wrapped up their latest spate of U.S. dates with the Bonnaroo festival over the weekend in Tennessee. But they return quite regularly to the United States this summer beginning with a string of dates in the northeast in mid-July before more performaces in the Midwest and then the West Coast. Royal Blood are a band to see if you want hard rock stadium anthems, and you believe perhaps that such songs have been absent from the music scene for 20 years or more.
In that case, they will not dissapoint you.